Lakeland, Fla. — Daniel Norris beat thyroid cancer in the offseason, and now he’s going to start the season on the disabled list because of a freak training accident?
The world isn’t right.
“It sucks,” Norris said Friday morning. “I can’t even put into words how disappointed I am.”
Norris was expected to win a spot in the Tigers’ rotation this season, but on March 15, he slipped while doing box jumps in the weight room. He suffered hairline fractures in the L2, L3 and L4 on the spinous process — the bony projection off the back of each vertebra.
It’s not expected to be a long-term injury. In fact, Norris expects he will be able to resume baseball activities as early as Tuesday. But it will keep him off the Opening Day roster, at least initially.
“I was just going too hard and I’m paying the price now,” Norris said of the fall. “I just slipped and fell. Honestly, it was like a freak accident. I can’t tell you how many times I replayed it in my head. I wish I could go back and not do those box jumps.”
He said the instant he landed he felt a pop in his back.
“I popped up real quick and said I’m fine,” he said. “But I took a couple of steps and it didn’t feel too good. I didn’t tell anybody at first, just went out like it was a normal day. But I tried to play catch and I couldn’t throw.”
Still, he had three days before his next scheduled start. He thought he would be ready to pitch last Saturday in Jupiter, Fla. But the back was sore after the three-hour bus ride Friday and the Tigers wisely pushed it to Tuesday.
He lasted six batters against the Blue Jays before being pulled out. He didn’t feel pain when he threw his fastball. But when he extended all the through his motion on a change-up, that’s when the pain flared.
“I still thought I could pitch through it,” Norris said. “They told me that even though I went out there and tried to pitch, I didn’t do any more damage. The damage had already been done. The pain I was feeling was muscle spasms protecting the fractures.”
Norris said he believes the fractures have been healing since March 15.
“I talked to the specialist and I was pretty encouraged by what he told me,” he said. “As soon as I finish the medication (five days) that should handle the inflammation. It should go pretty quickly and I should be able to start throwing and begin baseball activity next week.”
His body will dictate the pace of his recovery. And given Norris’ hell-bent mentality, that could be dangerous. Norris acknowledged that.
“I want to get out there and expedite the process,” he said. “But I have to be honest. I can’t try to push through it like I have been. I think I kind of delayed my timetable a little bit. But I feel like I am already a ways into the healing process.”