Daniel Norris' numbers put him back in the picture

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Daniel Norris

Detroit — Here are the only numbers that matter to the Tigers from Daniel Norris’ second rehab start Thursday night with Double A Erie: 93-96 and 92.
The 93 to 96 was the velocity on his fastball into the seventh inning and 92 was the number of pitches he threw. As far as the Tigers are concerned, he’s ready to be back in the rotation.
“Yeah, we’ve decided (where his next start will be), but we’re not ready to tell you yet,” manager Brad Ausmus said prior to the game Friday.

Fellow lefty Matt Boyd made the start against the Astros here Friday and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann made what the Tigers hope will be his final rehab start at Toledo. Both of those outings could factor into how the Tigers set up their rotation going forward.

Zimmermann threw 78 pitches to 19 batters. He allowed six hits and one earned run.

“We’re going to have to see how he feels tomorrow,” Ausmus said.

Presently Norris, Boyd, Mike Pelfrey and Anibal Sanchez are essentially competing for the final two rotation spots behind Michael Fulmer, Justin Verlander and Zimmermann.

Norris, coming off an oblique injury, put himself back into the discussion with his strong outing Thursday, albeit against Double-A hitters.

“Last night was huge, just as far as feeling the ball come out of my hand and letting it go without any reserve,” he said. “And I had a lot of swings and misses on fastballs, sliders and curveballs. My confidence is high right now.”

Pitching against Reading, Norris struck out seven in 6⅔ innings. He allowed three runs and five hits. His stuff and his stamina was vastly improved over his previous rehab start with Triple-A Toledo.

“I was at 93-96 mph with the fastball and 89-90 with the slider and when I am feeling good that’s right where I am,” Norris said. “I was getting back-foot swings and misses in the zone. It wasn’t like Double-A hitters were chasing everything. I was getting swings and misses in the zone.

“That’s what I wanted to see. I was really excited by how my stuff played and how I felt.”

He said, too, that in his first two rehab starts he started strong and then got fatigued by the third inning. 

“Last night was the opposite,” he said. “I got stronger as the game went on. The first two or three innings I was 92-93 and from the third up through the last guy I faced I was 93-96.”

Most likely, the Tigers won’t keep both Boyd and Norris in the rotation. And Ausmus made it clear neither was an option for the bullpen at this time.

Henning: Resurgent Tigers in limbo at deadline

“I don’t foresee either one being in the 'pen,” he said.

Another factor in the decision is how far the club want to push back Fulmer's next start. They are trying to ration his innings and with a day off Thursday and another on Monday, they have some flexibility. 

Talking trade deadline

Decisions on whether the Tigers will make any moves before Monday’s trade deadline are, as Ausmus likes to say, above his pay grade.

In fact, when asked about the Tigers decision to promote fire-balling right-hander Joe Jimenez to Triple A Toledo Wednesday, Ausmus said, “I was informed. David Littlefield (director of player personnel) texted me to say they were promoting Jimenez and I said, OK. That was it.”

Still, he continues to be asked about the Tigers’ deadline intentions. And he does not think the Tigers’ 5-2 road trip changed general manager Al Avila’s thinking.

“Al is looking at all pieces, but the asking price is the bigger concern,” Ausmus said. “Having the road trip we had didn’t hurt, but I don’t think it changed the philosophy. If we can get better within reason, we’ll get better.

“But right now the price, because so many teams want the same pieces, is extremely high.”

Around the horn

Right-hander Alex Wilson pitched another 1 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings. He has not allowed a run in his last 8 2/3 innings. And over his last 21 outings, he’s given up three runs in 25 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts.

… The Tigers agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with veteran left-handed pitcher Cesar Ramos and assigned him to Toledo. The 32-year-old has pitched parts of eight seasons in the big leagues with San Diego, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Angels and this season with Texas. He was 3-3 with a 6.04 ERA with the Rangers.

… Cameron Maybin (back) was back in the starting lineup and batting second. He’d missed the three games in Boston. Ausmus said Maybin injured his back about 10 minutes before the re-start of the suspended game with the White Sox on Sunday.

… Ausmus said he did not hesitate to put Maybin back in the No. 2 hole, even though Jose Iglesias went 5 for 13 with a double, home run and three RBIs hitting second in Boston. Maybin had three hits, scored three runs and knocked in two Friday night.

Twitter @cmccosky