Daniel Norris

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Daniel David Norris

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Daniel Norris was thrown right into the fire in his major league debut, being called in by the Toronto Blue Jays to face David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox in the 7th inning on September 5, 2014, with two outs and the tying run on second base. Norris reacted like a seasoned pro, striking out Big Papi to end the inning.

Norris got some publicity when he arrived in spring training in 2015­ when he explained that he lived in his van out on a Wal-Mart parking lot and cooked his meals on a portable stove. The van was not the typical athlete's SUV, but a vintage 1978 Volkswagen camper - albeit beautifully restored. He received a lot of ribbing from teammates for his unusual choice of ride, including R.A. Dickey who decided to have some fun and drive it onto the field in Dunedin, FL. Following a spring injury to Marcus Stroman, who was lost for the season, Norris made the Jays' starting rotation out of spring training and started and won the Jays' third game of the season, 6-3 over the New York Yankees for his first career victory. However he made only 5 starts, going 1-1, 3.86, before the Blue Jays sent him down to the minors at the end of April. He then struggled with the AAA Buffalo Bisons, going 3-10, 4.27 in 16 starts. On July 30th, Toronto sent Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt to the Detroit Tigers in return for David Price.

Daniel was excellent in his debut with the Tigers on August 2, 2015, as he allowed only 1 run in 7 1/3 innings in a start against the Baltimore Orioles and was credited with a 6-1 win. On August 19th, he became the 19th pitcher in major league history to hit a home run in his first at-bat, connecting off Jon Lester in the 2nd inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a strained oblique in the 5th inning and had to be placed on the disabled list. He came back in mid-September, and on September 22nd pitched 5 hitless innings in a start against the Chicago White Sox. The game was still scoreless when he left, and Buck Farmer, Ian Krol and Drew VerHagen each pitched a hitless inning in relief. The Tigers held a 1-0 lead entering the top of the 9th, but Neftali Feliz allowed a one-out triple to Tyler Saladino to end the no-hit bid; Saladino eventually scored, but the Tigers won the game in 10 innings, 2-1. He ended the season with a record of 3-2, 3,75 in 13 starts between the two teams. After the season, he announced that he had been diagnosed with a form of thyroid cancer a few months earlier, but then reported at the end of October that after an operation, he was now cancer-free.

In 2016, he went 4-2, 3.38 in 14 games, then followed that with a 5-8 record and an ERA of 5.31 in 22 games in 2017. He also spent time in the minors both of these seasons, as various ailments kept him from reaching his full potential. 2018 was another season when he was bothered by injuries, as he appeared with four different minor league teams on rehabilitation assignments, and pitched just 11 games in the majors, going 0-5, 5.68. He was finally healthy in 2019, spending in the entire season in the majors, and pitching 32 times, including 29 starts. The results were so-so, as he went 3-13, 4.49 but reached personal highs in innings (144 1/3) and strikeouts (125). These numbers were reached in spite of the fact that the Tigers decided to limit his innings that season with an unusual strategy: starting on August 11th and for his final 9 starts, he pitched exactly three innings each time out, by design. He did well, putting up an ERA of 3.33, but went 0-4 as he was ineligible to win any of these games even when he pitched well.

In June 2020, he was one of the MLB players to be infected by the COVID-19 virus. He started feeling awful after a surfing outing and tested positive a few days later, although there is no way to know how and where he contracted the disease. While the effects of the disease had abated when training camp re-started, he still had to stay away due to quarantine regulations, until he could test negative twice. He ended up pitching just 14 times, with only 1 start, but otherwise putting up good numbers, as he went 3-1, 3.25. He was not the typical short reliever, as he logged 27 2/3 innings over the 14 games, and managed 28 strikeouts. In fact, his one start, in his first appearance of the year against the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of a doubleheader on August 7th, accounted for his only loss with 2 runs allowed in 1 2/3 innings. Otherwise, he was excellent in his new-found role.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jason Beck: "Daniel Norris: Lived in van, beat cancer, ready to pitch: After inspiring offseason journey, lefty looks ahead to 2016", mlb.com, January 27, 2016. [1]
  • Anthony Fenech: "Detroit Tigers' Daniel Norris wants players to hear his message after contracting COVID-19", USA Today, July 11, 2020. [2]
  • Eli Saslow: "He throws 96. He's the Jays' No. 1 prospect.he signed for millions. And he lives in a VW camper. Meet Daniel Norris, the most interesting pitcher in baseball", ESPN the Magazine, March 5, 2015. [3]

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