Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was absolutely right about Daniel Norris’ competitive spirit and why he felt so comfortable calling on his left-handed reliever to enter Friday’s game with almost no warmup in the fourth inning.
Starter Ivan Nova was struggling. He wound up giving up six runs in the fourth inning alone and eight runs overall in Friday’s 10-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Gardenhire had expected to get five or six innings out of Nova, but he needed to stop the bleeding fast.
“So we’re trying to hold it there,” Gardenhire said. “We threw Norris out there and here in a couple days he’s also supposed to be the backup to (Michael) Fulmer and he said he’s fine.
“He didn’t throw that many pitches; I think 30 pitches. This kid bounces back, he’s resilient.”
Yep. Resilient. That’s what beating thyroid cancer and COVID-19 will do for you.
Gardenhire talked it over with pitching coach Rick Anderson and they agreed to call on Norris, who had picked up the win Monday against the White Sox in two innings of relief.
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“It doesn’t take him anytime because he’s wired that way,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll tell you after three pitches, ‘I’m good to go.’ Honestly, that’s what he’ll say. Whether he is or not, he’s still going to say that. He loves to compete. We gave him his time and he did what he had to do.”
Norris didn’t worry about getting loose and let adrenaline take over as he jogged to the mound. With one on and one out, he gave up a single to Cesar Hernandez but he got the next two batters on groundouts to end the inning. Norris used his changeup effectively Friday in 1 ⅔ innings of scoreless work.
Norris said it was the first time he had entered a game with a baserunner. But he liked the idea of coming into the game and not being over prepared and having too much time to think.
“Yeah, I would say so,” he said. “Just kind of going off the adrenaline and not worrying if I’m loose or not. Just go get something out. I don’t think I’ve ever come in with anybody on base, so that was a different thing for me, but it was cool.”
Norris’ fastball was especially good Friday, when it touched 95 mph. It was speed that he’s been waiting to get back after struggling with injuries in 2018 and then testing positive for coronavirus in June and July.
“It’s cool to see that after a long road back to that,” Norris said of his speed. “I feel good about that. I feel good about the work (Anderson) and I have been doing every day. It’s cool to see that play out on the radar gun, though at the end of the day we just want to get outs.
“It’s something we talk about. It gets that weapon back for me because it was gone for a while.”
Norris said one of the keys to his improved speed and command has been working with Anderson. While he was away from the team during his July quarantine, Norris used the time to throw against a fence which had a limited amount of effectiveness.
“The fence was my pitching coach,” he said, “and it doesn’t talk much. So it was good to get back with Andy.”
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