Gardenhire: Norris likely to pitch out of bullpen if he returns

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Daniel Norris was back in the Tigers clubhouse briefly Saturday.

“I’m not sure he ever left,” Blaine Hardy joked the other day. “His locker is still there. He has jeans and some shirts in there. Are we sure he wasn’t here all year?”

Daniel Norris

Norris is sure. After spending the last three months rehabbing in the dense heat of central Florida, trying to work his way back after groin surgery, the Tigers left-hander is making a push be back when the rosters expand in September.

He will throw an 80-pitch rehab assignment at Toledo on Sunday.

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“If everything goes good, that is a good stepping stone for him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll see how it goes. If he’s healthy and throwing good, there’s a possibility we’ll bring him up here. It would be fun to see him up here healthy, actually getting to see him pitch.”

Norris has been on the disabled list since April 30. He has made three rehab starts, two in the Gulf Coast League and one for Lakeland in High-A. He’s pitched 7⅔ innings and struck out 13 with four walks. His fastball velocity, Gardenhire said, is up to 91-92 mph as he continues to build up his arm strength.

Gardenhire also said it was likely that Norris would work out of the bullpen if he made it back.

“Yeah, I mean, unless we went to a six-man rotation or something,” he said. “Most likely if he came up he’d pitch out of the bullpen, but there’s not telling. Things can change in a heartbeat.”

Gardenhire said Norris was going to have to show more than good health at Toledo.

“We need to see him get some people out, too,” he said. “He’s got to be throwing the ball effectively before we bring him back up here.”

Norris didn’t stick around long enough Saturday to speak to the media.