Daniel Norris reflects on career with Detroit Tigers after trade: ‘A lot of mixed emotions’

Detroit Free Press

An emotional Daniel Norris walked up the dugout steps at Comerica Park.

Tears swelled in his eyes.

He tried to explain the feeling of being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Set to be a free agent after this season, the 28-year-old knew there was a chance he would be told to pack his bags.

“The last couple years, it kind of comes up and you’re waiting to hear something,” Norris said. “This year, I heard something. A lot of mixed emotions. I’m very excited for the opportunity … but at the same time, it’s hard.”

The Detroit Tigers made one move before Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, sending the left-handed reliever to the Brewers. In return, the Tigers received right-handed pitching prospect Reese Olson, who will begin in High-A West Michigan but should earn a promotion to Double-A Erie soon.

“He didn’t want to go,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said.

“He loved being a Tiger,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Who knows, maybe he’s a Tiger again someday. It doesn’t close the door at all. It just closes the door for the next couple of months.”

TRADING NORRIS: Tigers trade left-handed reliever Daniel Norris to Milwaukee Brewers for prospect

GETTING OLSON: New right-hander Reese Olson: Meet young pitcher enjoying a strong month

Norris reached the end of a seven-year stretch with the Tigers, which included tough injuries, learning lessons, successes, failures, a few roles, personal growth and an attachment to the city. He helped with a playoff push, which ultimately fell short, in 2016. He stayed positive through the darkest year of the rebuild in 2019.

And in 2021, Norris saw hope for the franchise.

“The toughest part is seeing where this team is now, seeing the rise of it and how much fun it’s been to win,” Norris said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m really sad about leaving. I feel like this is a winning team. Even going out in public and seeing people wanting to turn the game on at a restaurant and hearing people excited about the Tigers, it’s been just really cool this year.

“I’ll miss that, but I’m very happy for this team and how far it’s come.”

YOUNG AND OLD: How veteran Miguel Cabrera, rookie Casey Mize produced night to remember

Norris joined the Tigers at the 2015 trade deadline, when he was shipped from the Toronto Blue Jays as a 22-year-old starting pitcher — alongside left-hander Matthew Boyd and lefty Jairo Labourt — in exchange for former Cy Young winner David Price. He made his first start for the Tigers on Aug. 2, 2015, just two days after the trade, and posted 7⅓ innings of one-run ball against the Baltimore Orioles.

Norris became a full-time reliever in 2020.

“What the city embodies is hard work and grit,” Norris said. “I think that’s what this team shows this year, and it’s what I’ve always felt being here. It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s taught me so much as a human, not only on the field but as a human and who you are in your day-to-day life.”

THIS TIME THEY HAVE LEVERAGE: Inside the Tigers’ trade deadline decision

TRADE CHIP: How Jonathan Schoop learned not to worry at trade deadline

Norris posted a 5.89 ERA, 15 walks and 40 strikeouts over 36⅔ innings in 38 games this season, and he hasn’t allowed a run in his past five appearances. (Last year, he logged a 2.77 ERA, five walks and 28 strikeouts in 26 innings out of the bullpen.)

He has a 4.57 ERA in 148 games across his eight-year MLB career.

“I hope that if I left anything here, it’s hard work,” Norris said. “I did have my ups and downs here. I wasn’t the pitcher I wanted to be here.”

Hinch added: “It’s remarkable, the work he puts in and how in-tune he was with going back and forth between starting and relieving, and then this year, just being a reliever and getting off to a tough start and being mentally strong enough to develop some usefulness and ultimately be really good his last few outings here.”

[ Are Jonathan Schoop and Tigers headed for an extension? He discusses his future ]

On Saturday, Norris will arrive in Atlanta.

That’s where the Brewers and Braves are clashing in a crucial National League series. The Brewers — with a 61-42 record — are in first place in the NL Central, with a seven-game lead on the Cincinnati Reds entering Friday.

The Brewers are chasing a World Series.

And they need Norris.

“I think (a new start) could be good for anybody, so I’m just anxious to get going,” Norris said. “I’m anxious to put that uniform on and see if we can win a World Series. That would be really cool.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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