Tigers’ Daniel Norris still searching for velocity

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — It can be the most irksome of all topics for a pitcher.

Velocity. A fastball’s cruising speed.

Radar guns, mostly, have turned it into a habitual conversation piece — a measure of a pitcher’s fury and bravado. And those intimations can make a pitcher prickly, which, to his credit, was not how Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris responded Friday after he worked 4.2 innings of one-run baseball, all before the Tigers lost, 3-2, in the second game of their doubleheader against the Royals at Comerica Park.

No, he acknowledged, his fastball might be dogging it a bit at 89 mph. But the radar gun hasn’t seen the last of Norris in 2018.

“It’ll be back,” he said of a fastball that Norris in the past has twirled more in the range of 94.

He could even talk wryly about his not-so-hot heater.

“I’ve been searching for it under my bed,” Norris said after he had been nicked for three hits and that lone run, all while striking out five and walking three.

“It’ll come back.”

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Norris threw 85 pitches Friday and had better luck with his slider, curveball, and change-up.

“Threw a lot of pitches,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, “but he changed speeds and was keeping ‘em off-balance.”

The skipper, though, agreed: That old Norris fastball is hiding somewhere.

“It’s just not there right now,” Gardenhire said.

Norris, of course, is regarded as a left-handed power pitcher and not so much an artist. But he has leaned more toward finesse as he closes in on his 25th birthday, which is Wednesday.

“You throw hard your whole life,” he said, a bit mystified at why the hard stuff has been so hard to come by.

Warmer weather should help, he, and Gardenhire, suggested Friday.

Until then, five strikeouts spoke Friday to the way in which even an 89-mph fastball gets on top of hitters, thanks to his delivery, which can look to a hitter as if the ball is coming from 50, rather than 60-1-2, feet away.

“I feel fine,” Norris said, assuring everyone, maybe beginning with himself, that the radar-gun’s soon enough going to get a workout.

Here, gone

Mike Gerber’s family did not travel to Detroit in vain.

The rookie outfielder made it into a big-league box score Friday when he pinch-ran for Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning of the second Tigers-Royals game.

“Getting up here makes you not want to leave,” said Gerber, 25, and an outfielder who is one of the Tigers’ top position prospects.

Gerber was playing at Triple A Toledo when he got word Thursday night he was going to Comerica Park. The Tigers had a doubleheader against the Royals and, because of recent rule changes, could add a 26th player to their active roster when games are stacked back-to-back on the same day.

“I can officially say I played in the big leagues,” said Gerber, a 15th-round pick by the Tigers in 2014, from Creighton University.

“And I got to pinch-run for Miguel Cabrera — how awesome is that?”

Very awesome, in Gardenhire’s view.

“You can tell your grandbabies,” the skipper said, “you pinch-ran for a Hall of Famer.”

Gerber’s one-day fantasy ended, at least temporarily, after Friday’s game.

He’ll rejoin the Mud Hens today in their game at Scranton.

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No, sir

Shane Greene wasn’t wild about the third strike he thought he had against Royals batter Jon Jay in the ninth, all before Jay slapped the grounder that led to a Niko Goodrum error and the winning run scoring.

Greene said he later asked home-plate umpire Carlos Torres where, in the ump’s opinion, the pitch had traveled.

“And he said the pitch wasn’t even close,” Greene explained, with all but a grimace. “It was not a great response, but they’ve got to do their job, and I’ve got to do mine.”

No go

Gardenhire saw the tying run score in Friday night’s ninth inning when Abraham Almonte’s fading single fell in front of Nick Castellanos in right field.

A more seasoned right-fielder, or a speedier right-fielder, might — might — have run the ball down.

But whether that would have happened or not, Gardenhire made clear he isn’t subbing for Castellanos late in a game, even if this looms as Castellanos’ first big-league season in right.

“Absolutely, 100 percent not,” Gardenhire said. “Once you start that (replacing), you have to do it every night. He’s our starter and the only way you can get better is to play there.”