Chicago — From the sound of it, Tigers general manager Al Avila and manager Ron Gardenhire went round and round debating whether or not to send left-hander Daniel Norris back to Triple-A Toledo.
A roster move had to be made to make room for starter Mike Fiers, who was activated off the disabled list after the game Saturday.
“There were pros and cons both ways, believe me,” Gardenhire said. “I’m a little nervous about it just for the fact that I know how much starting pitching we need and Norris is one of them.”
It was finally agreed that Norris would stay and work in long relief. Right-hander Warwick Saupold was optioned to Toledo.
“With Fiers coming back we knew something had to happen,” Gardenhire said. “We talked a lot of different ways to go about it. In talking with Al, he thought this was the right way to go right now and I’m on board.
“But we need starters in this organization and Norris is going to be one of them. We will keep him up for a little while, but if he’s not getting his work, we will get him back down and let him start.”
Gardenhire said he was confident that Norris would get his work. He pitched 3⅓ innings on Thursday and would be available for extended work Sunday with Fiers making his first start of the season.
“Norris is a starter, he’s not a bullpen guy,” Gardenhire said. “But we think we can get his innings up here with some of the situations you have early in the year. We’re going to need length out of the bullpen and right now we have him and Willie (Alex Wilson) to protect us in those parts of the game.”
Fiers threw 93 pitches in his last tune-up start in Lakeland, pitching to minor-league hitters five days ago. With him coming off the DL (back) and the sub-40-degree temperatures, there’s no telling how long he will be able to last on Sunday.
“We will have Norris there to back him up and piggy-back him,” Gardenhire said. “But Norris needs to pitch. I’m not going to have him just sitting up here not doing anything. So if we’re going to keep him up here, I told Al, we’re going to pitch him.
“He’s going to get innings and he’s going to get extended. That’s the way it’s got to be.”
That suits Norris just fine. As he said on Thursday, “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.”
Gardenhire said he expected Saupold to remain stretched out, either in long relief or as a starting pitcher at Toledo.