Tigers' Norris feeling improvement but return uncertain

By Corey Long, Special to The Detroit News
There is no timetable for Daniel Norris’ return. He could miss the rest of the season.

St. Petersburg, Fla. — Daniel Norris, who is on the 60-day DL while he recovers from a left groin strain, made a visit to the Detroit Tigers clubhouse Monday before the start of their three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris is rehabbing at the Tigers’ spring complex in Lakeland, Fla., about an hour northeast of Tropicana Field. He said he’s noticing the difference in the way he throws as his health continues to improve.

“It’s feeling better, there’s always swelling but it’s going down now and feeling better,” Norris said. “As soon as I started throwing there was a huge difference with the way the ball was coming out. You just have to be patient. That’s the hardest part.”

There is no timetable on Norris’ return. He could miss the rest of the season.

More: Tigers prospect Jacob Robson still bashing, but is he a big leaguer?

“We’re just kind of going as we go,” Norris said. “It’s hard to put expectations [on a recovery time] because of all that scar tissue. I just want to keep progressing. I’m looking forward to competing again but right now I’m just getting everything taken care of so I don’t have any reservations when I get on the mound.”

Looking for excitement at the top

Manager Ron Gardenhire admitted that putting third baseman Ronny Rodriguez in the lead-off spot Monday against Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer might not be the proper move according to analytics. Gardenhire, however, is hoping Rodriguez can provide a spark with some aggressive at-bats.

"We were mixing and matching and going through all kinds of options,” Gardenhire said. “It came down to [playing] an exciting player. We probably know he's not going to take too many pitches. 

“But we like his flair, we like his excitement and he'll be up there and get all the guys fired up whether it's hitting the ball or swinging away. Let him get some at-bats and see what happens. That's what we've got him up here for. Let him play."

Rodriguez is hitting .194 (6-for-31) in 13 games with the Tigers but he’s 4-for-7 with an RBI in the two games he’s started in July.

Goodrum could be on the move

Niko Goodrum seems to have found a home at second base but Gardenhire said there will still be occasions when he will have to move around the infield.

“There are all kinds of situations where he might have to play shortstop for a while,” Gardenhire said. “Right now we're just keeping him in one spot but that doesn't mean he's the everyday guy because he can still go other places.

“That's the luxury of having him on the field, I can put him a lot of places, I can put Rodriguez a lot of places. We have maneuverability.”

First time All-Star

Gardenhire said he hopes closer Joe Jimenez gets an opportunity to pitch in the All-Star Game next Tuesday in Washington, D.C., at Nationals Park. He said Jimenez has already gotten a lot of advice on how to enjoy the festivities and playing in the game would be a nice way to cap it off.

“It would be a great moment for him to walk on the mound in an All-Star Game,” Gardenhire said. “He shouldn't have too much to fear, he throws 96 mph. Even if he gets hit he'll be OK, it's an All-Star Game. And he’ll be better for it.”

“To go out there and have a chance to walk out on the field with all those guys is special. It's a good time. I've been to a few myself. He'll enjoy it I'm sure.”

Around the horn

Third baseman Jeimer Canderlario had flu-like symptoms and was sent back to the team hotel Monday afternoon. “We told him to go back and lie down for a while and see how he feels.”

… Left-hander Drew VerHagen returned to the Tigers after being activated from the DL (broken nose) Sunday night. He took some ground balls off the mound Monday before the game started.

… Gardenhire said right-hander Artie Lewicki will be working as a starter in Triple-A Toledo and he wants to get some longer relief outings for left-hander Blaine Hardy.

Corey Long is a freelance writer.