Detroit — This weekend’s forecast in Metro Detroit features some of the highest temperatures the city will see all year. Mix in a little humidity, some rain showers here and there, and you have yourself some pretty miserable conditions for playing baseball.
While common sense would say that pitchers — who rely on gripping the baseball firmly to do their job — would be the biggest losers in the ordeal, Detroit’s projected starter for Saturday’s game, Daniel Norris, isn’t sweating it one bit.
“I’ll be fine,” Norris said before Friday’s game. “I like it hot.”
The 26-year-old left-hander did say, though, that making sure he’s properly hydrated for a start in which the game-time temperature is in the upper-90s is serious business, one that requires him to go “above and beyond” the preparation he’s used to before a start.
“We have methods of (preparing for Saturday’s weather),” Norris said. “Just take precautions, do all the stuff you can in the dugout and in between innings.”
That includes making use of ammonia towels to stay cool and rosin bags to keep the moisture away. As long as he’s properly prepared for that, Norris said, there’s actually a chance that the weather could give him an advantage.
“As far as feeling different body-wise, I might get looser quicker,” he said. “You never know.”
Saturday will also be Norris’ first start against his former team since being acquired from Toronto at the 2015 deadline in a package for starting pitcher David Price.
Nearly four years removed from his stint with the Blue Jays, he’ll face the newest crop of up-and-comers from the organization that drafted him with a second-round pick in 2011 — namely 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who on last Monday broke the Home Run Derby record for most home runs in a single round with 29.
“That was fun to watch,” Norris said. “He’s a tremendous talent. It’s fun to watch kids having fun playing baseball.”
When the time comes for Norris to take the mound on Saturday, however, the two factors that figure to make the start a bit of an unusual one will be brushed to the back of the lefty’s brain.
“Nothing changes,” Norris said. “Just go out there, (face) another left-handed or right-handed hitter in the box.”
Jones back from IL
Outfielder JaCoby Jones will make his return to Detroit’s starting lineup Friday after being placed on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain he suffered on July 4.
Jones, who will bat leadoff in Friday’s series-opener with Toronto, went 7-for-16 with three RBIs and a double over a four-game rehab stint with Triple-A Toledo earlier this week. The return of Jones’ bat is a jolt the Tigers desperately needed following a 1-6 road trip after the All-Star break.
In 33 games prior to catching the injury bug, Jones posted a .313/.373/.574 slash line with 11 doubles, five homers and 16 RBIs. The Tigers, meanwhile, were outscored 79-55 during his 11-game absence.
In a corresponding move, the team optioned outfielder Victor Reyes to Triple-A. The second-year big-leaguer had struggled at the plate in 16 games this season, going .236/.311/.309 with a 50-percent steal success rate and little to no extra-base power.
Friday night at Comerica Park is the eighth annual “Pink out the Park,” an event put on by the team to celebrate breast cancer survivors and support breast health awareness.
Tigers reliever Buck Farmer is one of many in Detroit’s clubhouse with a family member who has beaten the disease, and in knowing what his grandmother endured during her fight, said that taking a night to acknowledge those who’ve gone through the same is “incredibly important.”
“It’s absolutely incredible how much power this woman had,” Farmer said. “I definitely love celebrating this night and the courage those women have.”
The Tigers offered a special $15 “Go to Bat Against Breast Cancer” ticket for the game, with a portion of the sales going to the Karmanos Cancer Institute to benefit breast cancer research. The lower-bowl ticket package included a free pink fanny pack bearing the Tigers' logo on the center and faint pink ribbons scattered in the background.
Blue Jays at Tigers
First pitch: 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
Starting pitchers: Tigers LHP Daniel Norris (2-8, 5.14) vs. Blue Jays RHP Trent Thornton (3-7, 5.25)
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.