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Norris puts together strong rehab start with Hens

08/21/2017, 9:09pm EDT
By By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Daniel Norris gave a solid performance over 3 1/3 innings in Monday night's game against the Clippers. The southpaw fanned five batters, walked four, and allowed only one hit. BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Several times, Daniel Norris threw a pitch in the third inning of his rehab start Monday at Fifth Third Field, then turned his body with an unhappy hop.

But the best news of his appearance for the Toledo Mud Hens was the hop wasn’t the result of an injury.

“That’s characteristic of me — I get frustrated,” he explained after completing 3 1/3 innings. “It wasn’t physical. It was me expecting better of myself.

“But if you end up with a good start, you’ve done some stuff right.”

There was both good and bad in the start, which saw Norris walk four of the 14 Columbus batters he faced. But the 24-year-old left-hander also allowed just one hit and struck out five in his best effort for Toledo this season.

But the good numbers were not what made Norris happiest.

“First and foremost was that I felt healthy, which is what I’ve been waiting for,” he said. “I think in all of my other rehab starts, it has been whether I’m feeling it in my hip or groin, or if it’s just a mental hurdle I have to get over, it has hindered me on the mound.

“In that first inning, I was still thinking about it a little bit. I have to flip that switch and get over it, and in the second inning I did a better job of that.”

Norris allowed  a single to Michael Martinez and a walk to Daniel Robertson before getting Yandy Diaz to hit a line drive Hens second baseman Jason Krizan caught and turned into a double play.

Norris then got Tyler Naquin to hit into a weak groundout.

“In the first inning I was rushing a little bit, and that was why a lot of fastballs were up,” Norris said. “As the game went on, I thought I progressed and felt better.”

Norris walked a batter in the second and pitched around two bases on balls in the third, striking out Robertson and Naquin.

He then struck out Ronny Rodriguez to open the fourth, then was relieved by Ruben Alaniz.

“I felt I had pretty good command of my other pitches, and the action on my breaking pitches was great,” Norris said. “I felt I got a lot of swings and misses from my slider, curveball and change-up.

“I just didn’t have my fastball. I got a couple of swings and misses with the fastball up, but in terms of being in the zone and commanding it, I was kind of shaky with that.”

Norris began the season in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation, and was 4-7 with a 5.29 ERA in 16 starts before suffering a groin injury around the Fourth of July. Before this appearance, he had made three previous rehab starts with the Mud Hens and struggled in all three, allowing 11 hits and 10 runs in just 5 2/3 innings.

“When they put me on the rehab assignment, I knew I had to pitch well to get back on the roster,” Norris said. “I think that was a lot of pressure, and I really wasn’t ready physically.

“That was frustrating because I wanted to pitch through it, but some times you just can’t force it. It was clear I needed more time on the DL.”

Norris said he expects to make another start for the Mud Hens on Saturday, then hopes to rejoin the Detroit rotation after Sept. 1 when rosters at the major-league level expand.

“Any time I go out there I want to pitch well, whether we’re in a pennant race or not,” he said. “I want to get back up there and prove that last season, and the way I threw the ball at the end, is what I’m capable of.”

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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