Detroit – Orioles manager Buck Showalter gave Daniel Norris his due. He praised his "plus-plus" stuff and said that's the kind of grade-A prospect you get in return for a proven star like David Price.
But he also added a dose of perspective.
He called Norris' outing Sunday – 7.1 innings, one run, four hits – a perfect storm, meaning there were mitigating circumstances.
"It was a day game-night game after three long, challenging games," Showalter said. "It's that time of year. It's August. It sometimes happens the way the schedule is constructed."
So, Norris beat some tired hitters?
"Oh, he's good," Showalter said. "He's got a chance to be a good pitcher for them. The guy they gave up for him is (good) right now. That's the way it works."
The Orioles had seen Norris' act before, though.
Back in spring training, in Dunedin, Florida on March 25, Norris mystified Orioles hitters – they played their starters for the most part that day – allowing a run and three hits.
That was a pivotal day for Norris. He broke out his new changeup, the one he just started tinkering with a couple days earlier. Fitting, given his non-conformist ways, he had to be taught the traditional, fade changeup, the one that from a left-hander moves down and away from right-handed hitters.
Norris, for his whole career, had used a cut-change, one that's thrown a little harder and breaks in on right-handers.
"He can control a changeup that fades, like a normal changeup, and he's got one he can control that has some cut to it," catcher James McCann.
Heavy and effective
The Orioles got an effective dose of both on Sunday, as well as Norris' lively, if not radar gun-breaking, four-seam fastball, in his Tigers debut Sunday. The average velocity on his fastball was 91 mph but McCann said that was deceiving.
"There were some that I caught and thought, 'That has to be 96 mph,'" McCann said. "His fastball definitely has an extra gear."
There is deception in Norris' delivery that helps, and the fastball has riding action on it.
"He had good finish on it," manager Brad Ausmus said. "To the hitter it looked like it was at his belt and it ended above his belly button."
But the two changeups were his antidote against right-handed hitters Sunday. The seven right-handers in Showalter's lineup went 2-for-22. For the game, according to FanGraphs.com, the Orioles made hard contact on just 5 percent of balls put in play.
"A lot of late life," Showalter said. "You see hitters in hitter's counts who didn't center up, which tells you there's some late movement on the ball."
'That was big-time'
Adding the fade changeup to his repertoire was the brainchild of Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker.
"One thing that we know at the Major League level, a changeup that's cutting in on a right-handed hitter is kind of a dangerous pitch," Walker told the Toronto Sun. "Mark Buehrle, when he gets in trouble, it's often with that changeup that cuts instead of fades.
"I think with Daniel it's important that we rectify that. ... We tinkered with his grip a little bit and he picked it up in three or four pitches. I think he really enjoyed throwing it and enjoyed the results."
That he has.
"My whole career I've thrown a cut change and it's played really well," Norris told Toronto reporters in March. "But we sat down and talked this week and the coaches were like, 'There's nothing wrong with it. It's just that you've got to have something that kind of goes the other way.'
"So we kind of messed around with something. They said, 'It's up to you if you want to try it.' I was like, 'Yeah, if it's going to make me better, I'll do it, sure.'"
Still, as Norris was quick to point out, the success of his secondary pitches (the two changeups, slider and curve) is predicated on his ability to command the fastball.
"Later on I started getting better fastball command, keeping it down and elevating it when I have to," he said. "I found my changeup, too, and that was pretty good for me."
There are bound to be some bumps in the road for Norris, as Showalter intimated, but he couldn't have scripted a better first impression.
"There's just no telling what kind of nerves were running through his body, as far as wanting to impress guys in this locker room and make a good impression on the Detroit fans and the front office," McCann said. "For him to come in and throw like that and give our bullpen a much-needed rest, that was big-time."
ON DECK: ROYALS
Series: Three games at Comerica Park.
First pitch: 7:08 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 1:08 p.m. Thursday.
TV/radio: Tuesday-Wednesday -- FSD, 1270, 97.1; Thursday – FSD, MLBN, 1270, 97.1.
Probables: Tuesday – LHP Danny Duffy (4-5, 4.28) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (1-3, 4.86); Wednesday – RHP Johnny Cueto (7-6, 2.70) vs. RHP Buck Farmer (0-2, 8.50); Thursday – RHP Yordano Ventura (6-7, 4.98) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (10-9, 4.77).
Duffy, Royals: He's coming off a rough outing against the Blue Jays, who tagged him for five runs and six hits in six innings. But he had allowed just four runs total in his previous four starts. He beat the Tigers at the end of April, holding them to one run and seven hits over seven innings. He's been using his sinker more lately, but still mixing curves and sliders to his 93-94 mph four-seamer.
Verlander, Tigers: Once again the Tigers' ace, he's looked more like his old self lately. In starts against the Red Sox and Rays, he allowed a total of two runs in 16 innings. He struck out 10 in Tampa. His fastball is well-located and steady at 91-93 mph, and recently his slider has had a lot of life.