Arlington, Texas — Daniel Norris didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
“I feel good,” he said, the day after his 54-pitch first inning against the Texas Rangers Tuesday night.
Asked if he felt unusually fatigued or physically distressed during the inning, he said, “Not at all. I was trying to bear down and get out of the inning. I am glad he didn’t come out and get me because I’d have been more frustrated.
“It was like a 54-pitch bullpen without a break — which I’ve done before.”
That the Tigers allowed Norris, a 22-year-old rookie in his third start after a stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain, to throw 54 pitches and sent him back out for the second inning has been a topic of media and internet debate.
Some suggested the Tigers put Norris at risk by allowing to throw that many pitches in one inning.
“Absolutely not,” pitching coach Jeff Jones said. “Everybody writes about everything nowadays. He came in after the first inning and I said, ‘How are you feeling?’ He said, ‘I’m fine.’ ”
Jones said Norris’ velocity was still good. He wasn’t huffing and puffing on the mound or taking a long time between pitches. There was no evidence of undo physical stress. There was also no unusual post-start treatment for Norris.
“We’re always cognizant of pitch count, no matter what, no matter who’s pitching or what the situation is,” Jones said. “Like Brad (Ausmus) said, if he didn’t get Chris Gimenez out, he was coming out of the game.”
Ausmus said after the game that the plan was for Norris to throw 75 to 80 pitches. That would enable him to throw 95 to 100, close to a full game, in the last game of the season on Sunday.
“Norris is a gamer,” he said. “He didn’t want to come out of the game even when I took him out. He wants to be in the game. He wants to pinch-run, he wants to pinch-hit.”
Ausmus wasn’t in the mood to debate the issue any further, especially not the media-driven chatter about him risking Norris’ health.
“They have a lot less knowledge of Daniel Norris and baseball than I do,” he said. “So I am not really concerned about it.”
There are developmental reasons the Tigers want Norris to finish the season and pitch as close to a full game as possible on Sunday. There were developmental reasons for letting him battle his way through the first inning on Tuesday, as well.
“No question about it,” Jones said. “We want him to leave here on a good note. We tried to get his pitch count up yesterday so when he goes into his last start, he doesn’t have to worry about (pitch count) as much.
“It’s been very important for him to come back from the DL and be able to pitch again before he left for (the offseason). Hopefully on Sunday he’ll have a good game and go into the offseason knowing he’s healthy and knowing he’ll be fighting for a spot in the rotation next spring.”
Norris, again, can’t understand why this is even an issue.
“It’s kind of what we train for,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t want a 54-pitch inning, but you train to be able to continue, you have to have that stamina and not give in to hitters and stuff like that.”
Norris almost takes offense to the notion that throwing 54 pitches in an inning would damage him.
“You’ve got to listen to your body and I am really in tune with prepping myself — I take care of my body,” he said. “I think I could go as long as they needed me to. In the second inning, I wanted to finish it. I was limited to 75-80 pitches, I was at 71. I said, ‘Give me four more.’ And (Ausmus) was like, ‘I can’t.’
“I understood, but I was not wanting to come out of the game.”
Norris said it was vitally important to him, and for him, to come back and pitch this season — regardless of where the team was in the standings.
“It’s huge,” he said. “A lot of people told me to hang tight and just go into the offseason healthy, to rest up and get ready for next year. But I just can’t. I couldn’t let myself do that. I wanted to keep throwing. I still felt like I had stuff to prove.
“More than anything, I just wanted to play. I want to go out and help the team win. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to try and come back.”