Chicago — This has been the craziest start to a season for Daniel Norris.
“Not the way I envisioned it, for sure,” he said Thursday morning. “But a lot of times what you envision doesn’t happen. I am just trying to take it day-by-day and not look too far ahead.”
His first scheduled start of the season was Wednesday and the game was postponed because of bad weather. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Norris would be available out of the bullpen this weekend but most likely, Norris’ next start will be at Triple-A Toledo.
Right-hander Mike Fiers is eligible to come off the disabled list and could start on Sunday.
“What we want to see more than anything else (with Norris) is him to get pitching,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll come out of the bullpen right now, but how much we’ll use him is kind of dicey because we haven’t seen him do it too much. We will try to get him in the right situation, if there is one.
“But he needs to start. We need starting pitching in this organization. We need back-ups in the system and we’re going to get him back starting.”
They found a situation for him Thursday, a vital one, in the Tigers' come-from-behind, 9-7, 10-inning victory against the White Sox. Norris pitched 3 1/3 strong innings of relief, allowing one hit, one run and striking out six.
“He went right at them,” Gardenhire said. “He ate up some big innings for us and kept the game pretty much right there. He kept us within striking distance.”
Norris began the season as a strong candidate to be the No. 5 starter. Then the Tigers signed left-hander Francisco Liriano and Norris’ hold on a roster spot became tenuous. He only made three starts in spring training. Once he was used out of the bullpen, to get the final three outs of a game.
“Who knows?” Norris said when asked what he thought the plan was going forward. “I want to be here. I’ve made that known. I don’t care if it’s out of the bullpen or playing center field. I just want to be here.”
“Seriously,” he said. “I see (Angels Sohei) Ohtani doing it. I can do that…God has a plan. I’m holding on to that. I’m working hard. I put in the work in the offseason. Sometimes you’re not really given opportunities.”
He hasn’t thrown to live batters since March 28 in Lakeland, when he threw on the back fields against minor-league hitters. He’s kept his arm strength up with bullpen sessions and long toss.
But for a player as fiercely competitive as Norris, as hungry as he is to prove himself at the big-league level, being kept on a shelf can be dispiriting.
“I’ve done a lot of praying,” Norris said. “I’ve thrown the ball well; I can hold on to that at least. I feel like I’ve done what I needed to do. The rest is up to them. I can’t look forward. If I was having bad outings and I was worried about the past, that would be another thing.
“But I don’t think that’s been the case…I just want to pitch.”
Day of firsts
Niko Goodrum thinks the baseball was retrieved, but he didn’t know where it was.
Most likely, clubhouse boss Jim Schmakel had retrieved Goodrum’s first career home-run ball and was getting it ready to present to him. It was Goodrum’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth that started the Tigers’ rally.
“I thought it was a double when I hit it,” Goodrum said. “But the wind took it. I was hauling trying to make the most out of it — double or triple.”
He may have set a record for fastest home-run trot. He also stole his first career base.
“God has a plan for everybody,” Goodrum said. “I just try to stay in the moment and do what I can control at the time.”
He has a heck of a story to tell his kids one day. How when he hit his first big-league home run he had replaced Miguel Cabrera (who left with a tight hip flexor). Gardenhire had a story for him, too.
“He plays everywhere for us and we’re going to eventually make him a catcher, too,” Gardenhire said. “He doesn’t know that yet, but we’re going to have him do some of that, too.”
When Gardenhire’s plan was relayed back to him, Goodrum laughed.
“We’ll see,” he said.
Around the horn
Second baseman Dixon Machado had a pair of doubles and an RBI. He has reached base in all six games this season. He has five doubles in the first six games — the first Tigers hitter to do that since 1996 when Melvin Nieves had six doubles in the first six games.
… Leonys Martin had never played in snow before.
“Oh my god,” he said. “This is new for me. Snow during the game? It was freezing.”
Still, he went 2 for 5 with two RBIs, including the game-winner.