Detroit — The Tigers won’t say it, at least publicly, but a groin strain that has put Daniel Norris on the 10-day disabled list might have been a break for all parties.
Norris was shelved Thursday for what could be a hiatus that easily exceeds 10 days. Left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy was brought aboard after his latest stint at Triple A Toledo.
Norris had an alarming performance Wednesday against the Giants in their 5-4 put-away of the Tigers at Comerica Park. He allowed five runs in only four innings of a start that might have been more concerning because of Norris’ post-game state of mind.
He appeared on the verge of tears, spoke of Biblical stories about Nebuchadnezzar and three men placed in a furnace, and was clearly feeling the effects of a shaky 2017 season that has seen wild variances in his performances, from inning to inning, game to game.
“You want passion, but you don’t want emotion that gets in the way of performance,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who said Norris had also been “emotional” Wednesday during a postgame conversation in the manager’s office.
Ausmus emphasized the strained groin is exclusively the reason for Norris’ DL assignment.
“He’s having a MRI as we speak,” the Tigers manager said three hours before the Tigers were to meet the Giants in a 1:10 p.m. game at Comerica Park.
It was also possible the disabled list saved a front office from sending Norris to Toledo for some necessary time away from big-league realities that have conspired to sock Norris with a 4-7 record, 5.29 ERA and somber WHIP of 1.67.
“Right now,” Ausmus said, perhaps tellingly, “this is a groin injury.”
Ausmus conceded it’s as much Norris’ mind as his pitching construct that needs to find peace and cohesion.
“I think he’s probably passionate to a fault,” Ausmus said. “I think if he gets that (emotions) harnessed, the mechanics will fall in order.”
Norris came to the Tigers two years ago as part of a Richter-scale trade that sent David Price to the Jays. Norris, Matthew Boyd, and a third left-hander, prospect Jairo Labourt, were shipped to Detroit.
Norris from the get-go showcased extraordinary skills. But he was soon dealing with injuries that extended into the 2016 season.
He has been with the Tigers since spring camp and has been uneven in his starts. A team’s frustration, which has nearly matched Norris’ upset with himself and with his challenges, has been evident, even as the Tigers have counseled media and fans that a pitcher, only 24, needs extended time to align his talents and appetite to win.
The Tigers will replace Norris with a reliever, Hardy, who has not allowed a run in his last six games for the Mud Hens. The Tigers also acknowledge Hardy is a strategic call-up as the team prepares for a weekend series against the Indians, who have a full quiver of left-handed hitters.
Hardy, 30, has a 4.15 ERA in 20 appearances for the Tigers this season.