LAKELAND, Fla. -- Daniel Norris went to Port St. Lucie thinking he would be pitching a few innings in relief of starter Mike Fiers. He didn't realize until the game went on that Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio had other plans.
Bosio wanted Norris pitching one inning, the eighth inning of the game, to see what he could do in a short appearance. It wasn't an audition for a bullpen role, everybody insists, but a way to get Norris out of his comfort zone and get him to simply pitch, react and feed off his adrenaline instead of fighting himself.
"He said he just wanted me to go out and compete and have that closer mentality and let it eat instead of trying to finesse everything," Norris said. "He said, 'I've watched you pitch and you are at your best when you have that brim-down, attack attitude.'
"For me, I was like, 'All right. Say no more.' A lot of times in my career they tried to tell me not to be like that, that I was too intense and I needed to back off and breathe and relax. He teaches that upbeat pace, and that plays into my game pretty well."
He's still a starting pitcher, Bosio said Wednesday morning after overseeing Norris' lengthy bullpen session.
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"I look at Daniel as a young, very talented left-handed pitcher who has a willingness to get better," Bosio said. "And young players, doesn't matter if they're pitchers or position players, they're going to have their ups and downs. And Daniel falls in that category. We have a very talented left-handed pitcher in our organization that is trying to find his way, like we all did in our career."
These are the type of things Bosio is using Spring Training to try. He had Eduardo Jimenez warm up twice before putting him into Tuesday's loss to the Yankees so that he could see how Jimenez responded to getting up and down. Bosio plans to use that with other relievers as Spring Training goes on.
"That's part of their conditioning as well -- to see how his stuff plays out if he sits for two more innings," Bosio said. "It's probably going to happen during the course of the year as well."
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Bosio is also using pitchers in different roles. He brought in Sandy Baez for the final two innings of a win over the Marlins last week to see how the young right-hander, a starter throughout his Minor League career, responded to a late-game situation. It would not be a surprise if some Major League pitchers enter in different roles over these final few weeks of camp for similar reasons.
"Losing Travis Wood was horrible, because he could fill five different roles for us," Bosio said. "I would like a pitching staff full of guys like that, because now you've got some options. I think those days of, 'This guy's going to be this,' I really believe that those days are over. You need versatility in today's game."
On the surface, it's a different tone than manager Ron Gardenhire, who has said he wants set roles in his bullpen. But what Bosio wants is to give Gardenhire, general manager Al Avila and the front office options, both at the end of camp and as the season rolls on.
Francisco Liriano will likely fill part of that versatility void, depending on how the rotation shakes out.
"This is a big-game pitcher," said Bosio.
Buck Farmer could do the same.
"When he's right, he can be a starter, and maybe in time he will be," Bosio said. "He's got good enough stuff to do it. But right now, with the number of guys that we have, Gardy and Al and I and everybody else feel like he's probably going to be suited for our bullpen."
In time, Bosio will have the knowledge he wants, not just of his big league staff, but of the pitchers at his disposal in the upper levels of the farm system. For now, he's learning, and as the box scores show, he's experimenting.
"We're constantly in conversation with the front office and the coaching staff. That's why it's so important to put all of our players in all of those different roles to find out," Bosio said. "We might have something that we didn't know he was capable of doing, because at that moment he always seems to rise up and he's in the right place, or he can make the big pitch in that big spot. To be able to have a reliever that can come in and get a strikeout or a ground ball is huge."