Archive for the ‘Dan Norris’ Category

NorrisArmDome

What??!? Can’t possibly imagine anything going wrong with that elbow.

Well here’s something. According to an official release from the Jays, young lefty Dan Norris had arthroscopic surgery this morning to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow.

“Recovery time from the surgery is normally six weeks and the Daniel is expected to be ready for Spring Training in 2015,” it adds.

Just yesterday, in the Daily Duce, I passed along a link to a scouting report from Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus, who had watched Norris’s less-than-impressive debut start on the final Thursday of the season. In a portion I didn’t quote, he wrote this:

The lefty struggled to maintain his velocity in the September 25th game, going from 92-94 mph in the first inning to 88-90 mph in the third. There are several caveats here, from the typical first-inning burst of a fired-up pitcher making his starting debut to end-season fatigue and his 30-day layoff from the rotation, so the downward velo trend is not a concern so much as it is something to keep an eye on with his future starts. The BP prospect crew put him at 92-95 mph and touching 97 prior to the season, with his fastball receiving a 6 grade overall, and the early returns suggest that the heat will be a weapon for the southpaw.

The big question, as it is with virtually any young pitcher, is fastball command. In the September 25th game, Norris had a prevailing tendency to miss up (especially to the arm-side) against opposing batters. He did this with all of the pitch-types at his disposal, indicating that a late trigger was preventing him from achieving full extension at release point. He actually had a series of 12 consecutive pitches in the third inning that were all elevated, most of which finished above the zone. Elevated pitches will eventually meet their doom in the majors, and the Blue Jays will surely address the issue if it’s pervasive rather than a single-game blip.

This passage certainly makes a lot more sense given what we now know, and perhaps the surgery is precisely how the Jays have addressed the issues that were on display that day. That doesn’t exactly make this good news, though, does it?

I don’t know that we need to start ringing any alarm bells about Norris’s future ability to stay healthy, but no elbow surgery for a pitcher is ever good — even when it’s one of the less concerning ones, as this is.

No two pitchers’ arms are the same, either, so I don’t think we can try to glean anything about Norris from the list of guys to have had bone spur surgeries in recent years. Sure, it’s a little frightening to recall that guys like C.C. Sabathia, Josh Johnson, and Sergio Santos had the procedure, given what we know about what has happened to their arms since, but clearly there were existing arm problems for all three of those guys that went deeper than this one issue.

That doesn’t mean that couldn’t be the case for Norris, but there are more heartwarming examples of guys who’ve had the same kind of procedure: C.J. Wilson underwent it following the 2012 season, and came back in 2013 to pitch 212.2 innings, posting a 3.39 ERA and 3.31 FIP the next year. And Mat Latos had it after last season and was as effective as ever this year when healthy… at least statistically. His velocity was down a couple of ticks, and he missed three weeks with elbow inflammation, but mostly his season was derailed by a knee injury. Matt Cain pitched extremely well through bone spurs for years, reportedly, before having surgery that ended his season for the Giants in the middle of this year.

When discussing it in 2012, Wilson, who had pitched to a 2.43 ERA in the first half of that season, and a 5.54 ERA in the second half, after the problems arose, explained, “I tried to make a million adjustments to get around it, to the point where now I’m standing on the first-base side, trying to get an angle because I can’t throw sinkers anymore because my arm doesn’t work right.” Ultimately, though, he said he understood that “bone’s not muscle, so there’s really one way to get it taken care of.”

Hopefully for the Jays and Norris that’s all this is, and that the surgery takes care of it and there are no lingering issues with the appendage. But until we see that he’s healthy and well beyond the procedure, we can at least take comfort in the fact that he truly wasn’t himself when he made his debut as a big league starter. It’s not like in that game he was terrible or doing anything that couldn’t be corrected or undid all the positive of the outstanding season he had, but that’s not a small amount of comfort.

NorrisArmDome

Pitching: a totally natural human motion, eh?

Well, if you’re going to play the kids, you might as well play the kids, eh?

Despite talk of Todd Redmond getting the ball on Thursday, as the Jays turn to Charley Wholestaff in order to cover for the suspended Marcus Stroman, according to a tweet from Barry Davis, the club has decided instead to give us a little taste of the future: Dan Norris will get the start (which you knew already, because you read the title of this post).

Cool!

Right?

Well… not necessarily.

To be sure, there are things to like about this. Norris is going to be a big part of this club in the coming years, and the Jays’ attempt to get his feet wet at the big league level this month hasn’t exactly gone swimmingly —  save for his debut strikeout of David Ortiz, but even that at-bat was right on the very edge of going wrong — and maybe he’ll fare better getting into his starters routine, rather than being sprung from the bullpen at a moment’s notice.

Having him end the year on a high note seems like a reasonable hope, though I’m not sure we can entirely chalk up his struggles against big league hitters — especially right-handers, the ten of whom he’s faced so far have produced three hits and two walks — to coming out of the bullpen. If anything, working short stints should have given him an advantage over what we’ll see Thursday night, though the fact that his fastball’s average velocity so far in the majors has been just 91.3 suggests that he wasn’t necessarily “ramping up” the way you might expect. But it will be good to see him get an extended look at big league hitters, as to this point he hasn’t pitched more than one inning at a time.

That, though, is the other thing. Norris certainly isn’t stretched out for this.

The Jays are obviously aware of such a fact and will have him on a pitch count — Megan Robinson tweets that John Gibbons says he hopes to get just two or three innings out of his youngster — but even that is a lot for a guy who hasn’t exceeded two innings of work since his final start for Buffalo, almost exactly a month to the day that he’ll be asked to make his debut start in the big leagues. His last outing of even two innings was back on August 31st.

There’s concern there, I suppose, and perhaps with the fact that he’s already logged 128 innings across four levels in 2014, after reaching just 90.2 innings last season, buuuuuuuut at least he’s been getting regular-ish work over the previous month, and at least the club isn’t expecting him to go remotely deep into tomorrow’s game. By the sound of it, the main idea really is to get him into his routine, and having him prepare to pitch at a certain time, rather than throwing him into the fire.

I can live with that. And I can certainly live with getting a look at the player about whom, when he was called up in early September, Craig Goldstein and Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus wrote this:

Norris can come at hitters with a four-pitch mix that is fronted by a quality fastball and slider combination. Norris can run the fastball toward 95 mph when he needs a little extra and sits comfortably in the low 90s. His fastball has very good movement and he can work it east-west with ease. The slider comes in around the mid-80s with plus potential, giving Norris two pitches that can be high-end major-league offerings.

Behind the fastball, Norris is still developing his arsenal. Both the curveball and changeup are a little rough around the edges, though they each flash potential to be average pitches at peak. In my viewings the curveball showed more potential to become an average pitch, with the changeup resting in the fringy range.

The command profile still has to come along to match the primary two pitches, but he shows an ability to move the fastball around the zone and can take the hitter out of the strike zone with the slider. Norris’ ability to move the fastball around the zone at a young age hints at the potential for an advanced control-and-command profile that should serve him well against the best hitters in the world.

Yep. I can definitely live with that.

Meanwhile, Megan Robinson tweets that Marcus Stroman will only be available as a reliever from here out, with Jays’ rotation for the club’s final six games looking like this: Dickey – Buehrle – Norris – Hutchison – Happ – Dickey. Brendan Kenedy adds that John Gibbons says the decision to move Stroman to the bullpen, and not have him face Baltimore had nothing to do with trying to alleviate any tension given what happened the last time Stroman faced the O’s. Good on Gibbers if it really was, though.

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That fucking thing froze Ortiz and dropped in for a strike. Gold.

I’m in a car on the 401 right now (not driving, obviously), and so this is the best I can do as far as visual evidence of the filthy fucking fucking filth Dan Norris used to strike out David Ortiz to end a tense at-bat, and a seventh inning threat.

On the other hand, it’s kind of amazing that I can even do this at all.

On the other other hand, holy shit, that was awesome and terrifying, as Norris was at one point down 3-1, after missing badly three straight times following a first-pitch curve he dropped in for a strike. Ortiz fouled a 3-1 fastball straight back for strike two, and then it was time for a trip to filth town. Nails!

Check out the GIF via @dshemie8!

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Five and two-thirds innings. One run. Three hits. Three walks. Ten strikeouts.

Eighty-nine pitches. Sixty for strikes.

A 1.22 ERA and 1.84 FIP at High-A before moving up a level to New Hampshire — and theoretically a step away from the big leagues.

A 15.1 K/9 rate in his first two starts at Double-A.

A 2011 second-rounder who spent most of his first year-and-a-half as a pro in the wilderness with command issues, walking 18 batters in 42.2 innings in 2012, and 28 batters in 45 innings in the first half of 2013. But as the performances — like last night’s gem for the Fisher Cats — more and more consistently start to come in line with the talent and the pre-draft hype, fans are truly starting to take notice of Dan Norris.

It’s been a long strange trip as a pro for Norris — fitting for a guy who spends so much time in a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van — and things are probably about to start getting even more strange. For one thing, along with fellow Jays prospect Dalton Pompey, yesterday he was named to the roster for the All-Star Futures Game, and both got an impressive nod from Keith Law as two of five potential breakout names he gave in his piece on those selected.

From ESPN.com:

The game will also serve as a coming-out party for several breakout prospects, including the Toronto Blue Jays’ two representatives, lefty Daniel Norris, now up to 96 mph and throwing strikes, and center fielder Dalton Pompey, a potential leadoff-hitter and talented athlete, although Vinnie Vesuvius just owns him.

Norris is no stranger to glowing press clippings, it’s just… it’s been a while. But with what’s been a smooth transition to Double-A so far, we’ve started to remember things.

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