Lakeland, Fla. — For Daniel Norris, it didn’t change a thing.
One of the tangential impacts of the Tigers signing veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano last Friday, potentially, is that it makes Norris’ hold on the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation less secure.
But here’s the thing: Norris never felt his hold on the fifth spot was all that secure in the first place, certainly not with one minor-league option remaining. His mission since the end of last season has been to first get healthy and then go win the spot.
So, his reaction when the Tigers signed Liriano?
“I think everybody knew we were going to sign somebody, so I don’t really have a reaction,” he said. “It’s just part of it. I’ve always loved watching him pitch, so I am excited to see him out there.”
Not as excited as he is to finally get on the mound himself. The 2018 Daniel Norris Launch Party, delayed by a couple of days, is set for Wednesday in Tampa. It will the first time he’s thrown a competitive pitch since Sept. 28 when he threw five, two-hit shutout innings against the Royals.
But by all accounts, Norris isn’t the same pitcher now. Pitching coach Chris Bosio has worked to calm Norris’ delivery and Norris has worked, tirelessly, on getting more flexibility and fluidity into his taut, muscular body — all with the aim of allowing him to repeat his delivery more consistently.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I threw a great bullpen yesterday and everything feels 100 percent.”
Norris didn’t want to get into the specifics of his mechanical changes, but they were significant enough to where he was feeling soreness in different areas of his body earlier in camp.
“Yeah, it’s pretty different,” he said. “But it’s just about going out, competing and making pitches.”
Bosio has tried to get Norris to a point where he can clear his mind and trust his mechanics and his body to do the work, instead of over-exerting and trying to make every pitch perfect.
“It all feels real good,” Norris said. “It makes me feel more myself instead of trying to be something different. It’s just more about balance and not rushing, trusting the body and trying not to do so much.
“So far the bullpens have been going great. Now it’s just about taming the adrenalin in the game and channeling it.”
Here’s another difference for Norris: His rapid-fire tempo, which was frowned upon by the previous administration, is embraced by Bosio.
“That plays right into my game,” Norris said. “It’s good to be told to be like that.”
Say this about the crop of young, talented pitching prospects the Tigers have brought to big-league camp: They aren’t scared. At all.
Gregory Soto, 23 and has yet to pitch above High-A ball, was utterly undaunted by facing the meat of the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup on Monday.
“I just went out there to do my job,” Soto said through Tigers’ interpreter Bryan Loor-Almonte. “Just throw strikes. I fell behind two batters, but I battled back. I was just there to throw strikes and do my job.”
Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo — that’s a long way from facing the Bradenton Marauders, Clearwater Threshers and Daytona Tortugas. No nerves at all?
“A little bit at first,” Soto said, with a shrug. “But it’s just the same thing.”
With his fastball hitting 96 mph and his slider and change-up not nearly in regular-season shape, Soto held up well. He got Machado to fly out and he struck out Davis looking. He gave up one solid hit, to Jones, and two scratch hits to Schoop and Trumbo.
“It’s a big difference,” he said of facing big-league hitters. “Up here against really good hitters you have to make more quality pitches, as opposed to in the minor leagues where you can get away with a mistake.
“Here you can’t.”
FOGGY ABOUT IT
Jeimer Candelario stayed back and did his work Tuesday in Lakeland while the team played in Clearwater. But he wasn’t held out for any medical reason.
“The knee is fine, everything is good,” he said.
Candelario was involved in a collision behind home plate Monday with Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman. Candelario bruised his left knee and Gausman sustained a cut over his eye.
“I can’t remember where (his knee) hit him,” Candelario said. “I can’t really tell.”
He doesn’t remember much about the collision at all, and from the sound of it, he was more surprised by it than hurt by it.
“Leonys Martin hit a line drive and I was trying to help our runner at home plate,” Candelario said, who was the on-deck hitter and ran around to the first-base side of the plate to tell runner Jason Krizan to slide. “I was looking at the ball. I didn’t recognize we were that close to each other.”
Gausman was running behind the plate to back up the throw.
“It wasn’t a big crash,” Candelario said. “I just didn’t know he was there.”
He said he didn’t want to come out of the game, but manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t taking any chances with his starting third baseman in the first week of exhibition games.
“I was OK, but he’s the manager,” Candelario said. “So my job is, I go out of the game. But everything is good. I put ice on it and it was good today.”
AROUND THE HORN
Among the players brought to Clearwater from minor-league camp Tuesday was right-handed reliever Louis Coleman.
A veteran of six big-league seasons, five with the Royals, Coleman was signed last week to a minor-league deal.