Is Daniel Norris ready?
With Marcus Stroman no longer an option in the Jays starting rotation, every start by Daniel Norris becomes growingly more important.
Saturday he was everything the Jays need him to be against a team with all the experience, ability and talent necessary to prey on a younger prospect pitcher.
Fortunately for Norris, they didn’t. He retired his first six batters faced in order, inducing several weak ground balls and a broken bat to go with a strikeout of the infamous Alex Rodriguez.
With the exception of a Cole Figueroa double, and long single to Rodriguez, Norris wasn’t really touched. At the end of his outing Norris had amassed three and a third innings pitched with four strikeouts, a walk and two hits but no runs allowed.
Post-outing however, Norris told Buck Martinez that he wasn’t overly happy about his latest performance saying he wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked with his breaking pitches.
If anything, that’s the only thing one could take away from his isolated, unimportant and irrelevant start. He commanded the zone effectively, mixed speeds to keep hitters off-balance and battled counts with unpredictable pitch sequences. If that’s an off night, I think Jays fans will be able to live with that.
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Norris opened spring a week ago Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles and was arguably more effective in his shortened stint. In his inning and a third pitched he struck out two talented hitters in Delmon Young and Chris Davis in just over 30 pitches. Again, Norris was forced to make mechanical adjustments, as he said he was dropping his front shoulder, allowing Manny Machado and Adam Jones to reach base in the first inning.
So is Norris ready to be Toronto’s fifth starter? Unquestionably yes. Put aside the absolute desperate need for him at the Rogers Center to start the season and you still have a pitcher with phenomenal ‘stuff’ and a great baseball mind ready to challenge major league hitters.
For some reason in Toronto there is a present fear in letting a youngster come in and prove himself. The same maxims have existed for years, pleading with the Jays to hold prospects’ hands as they come into the big leagues, waiting for the first sign of failure to utter the unhelpful, “I knew he wasn’t ready” phrase that seems common-day around the fan-base.
Even if he isn’t ready, Norris has nothing to gain by going back down to the minor leagues to refine his command, ‘get some more seasoning’, or whatever unfruitful excuse one can muster up. He can do all of that in Toronto and if that’s too much, then you can send him down to the Buffalo refinery.
In my opinion though it’s time he come north of the border and discover if he will sink or swim. It’s probable, given the shortage of alternative options, that’s exactly what he’s going to get the chance to do. But one is certain, there’s no way to discern one’s swimming ability with the water wings still wrapped your arms, wading in the kiddie pool. You just have to jump in.