O's to start Bud Norris for potential clincher Sunday

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Buck Showalter wasn't playing games. He wasn't try to be coy with the Tigers. He just didn't want to commit to his Game 3 starting pitcher before seeing how the first two games of the American League Division Series went.

After Friday's game, he settled on veteran right-hander Bud Norris to take the mound Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, where the Tigers' season will be on the line.

"They knew. They knew who our starters were going to be and prepared for them," Showalter, the Orioles manager, said Saturday. "They've prepared for everybody we got, and probably guys we got down in Sarasota right now."

The Orioles, before the series, let the Tigers know their starters would be Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chin, Miguel Gonzalez and Norris; they just hadn't picked the order.

So, if you're thinking the Orioles were messing with the Tigers, think again.

"This time of year," said Showalter, "there is no games like that being played."

For Norris, 29, this will be his first postseason start — and his first start of any kind in a week-and-a-half. He faced the Tigers twice this year, losing both times, though he really was only hit around one time.

He's an intense guy, who's been known to have some heated confrontations with opposing batters. In May in Baltimore, he got into with Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, after Norris hit with a pitch immediately following an Ian Kinsler home run. The intensity factor, no doubt, won't be going down this time of year, especially for a potential clincher on the Tigers' home turf.

"It's going to be a hostile environment," Norris said. "The Detroit fans are special fans."

Showalter chose Norris (15-8, 3.67 ERA) over Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23) for a number of reasons based of how the first two games went — both Orioles victories. He didn't get overly specific on his thinking, though he did mention he likes the idea that Norris would be available out of the bullpen for an if-necessary Game 5.

While the Tigers might've been waiting for word, the Orioles all were on the same page, especially Norris and Gonzalez, who would start Game 4.

"The players, most importantly, knew where we were going," Showalter said.

Almost back

Sunday will mark 20 games of Chris Davis' 25-game suspension.

If the Orioles advance, their left-handed, slugging first baseman would be available at some point during the American League Championship Series, following his ban for amphetamine use.

"That's something we will turn our attention to if and when his days are up," Showalter said. "Right now, we're focused on trying to figure out a way to win another game from these guys, and that's going to be enough to take up our full plate."

Showalter has stayed in contact with Davis, via text.

He expects Davis, soon, to start working out at the team's minor-league facilities in Sarasota, Fla.

"He's engaged in every pitch," said Showalter, who also is playing this postseason with third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters.

Long layoff

Norris finished the season strong, going 4-0 with a 2.08 in five September starts.

Understandably, he's more focused on that than on the extended rest he's had since the regular season ended.

"I haven't pitched in a while," he said. "But I've been on my work days and everything else, and had plenty of bullpens in between. I feel great.

"There is nothing holding me back, and I'll go out there and keep doing what I've been doing the whole season."

None of the Tigers hitters have exactly owned Norris. Alex Avila actually is 0-for-10 against him, with five strikeouts.

Taking the high road

Showalter, for the record, isn't about to kick the Tigers bullpen when it's down.

"No, no, I'm not going to reflect on somebody else's abilities, or what have you," he said. "They won the American League Central, and they did some really good things with all their players.

"I said before, when this thing is over, the team that wins is going to have weaknesses, and teams that are eliminated are going to have strengths."

Showalter, by the way, did praise the Tigers for the way they monitor their starting pitchers. He said that's a big reason Tigers starters typically stay healthy.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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