Shift to bullpen seen as get-well move for Daniel Norris

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Daniel Norris

Detroit – You don’t know if Daniel Norris can take any solace in this, but he’s not the first struggling pitcher to be sent to the bullpen to get right.

The Indians’ Carlos Carrasco, Royals’ Danny Duffy and Mariners’ Drew Smyly are among the many successful starting pitchers who found their way after a stint working out of the bullpen.

“We talked about moving him to the bullpen after his last start, before he went on the DL,” manager Brad Ausmus said Saturday. “We think, even though it seems like a step back, it may end up being a step forward in the long run.”

Before going on the disabled list with groin and quad tightness, Norris had lost three straight starts, on a yield of 15 runs and 20 hits in 13.2 innings. His last two rehab starts at Toledo were rough, too – nine runs in five innings.

“There is just a lot going on,” Norris said on Friday, before getting the official word that he was being sent to the pen. “Just trying to get back into the swing of pitching. It almost feels like I am in a spring training phase because I haven’t pitched for a long time.

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“I am trying to regain my velocity. It’s been a slow process.”

He needed nearly 80 pitches to get through two innings in his last rehab start. He was unable to throw his fastball over the plate.

“I am walking so many guys,” he said. “And a lot of it is mechanics. But at the same time, I can’t really compensate with my arm right now. It’s not up to speed yet. That’s the frustrating part.

“My off-speed stuff is great. That’s why I’m striking people out. But I can’t control my fastball right now.”

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Ausmus said he sees this move as temporary and therapeutic for Norris – a short-term fix, not a long-term role.

“I wouldn’t say that it is better in the long-term that he’s a reliever,” Ausmus said. “It’s more taking a step back from being a starter, which could ultimately help him end up being a better starter.

“I still believe, long-term, that he is a starting pitcher.”

Ausmus said Norris wouldn’t be assigned any specific role and he would use him either in long or short situations. But he’s entering a crowded house. With the September call-ups, which most recently included right-hander Myles Jaye, there are 12 relievers in the bullpen.

Twitter @cmccosky