EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series with Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris.
Daniel Norris never felt better going into a Major League Baseball season.
The Detroit Tigers pitcher was finally healthy and ready to go before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball and much of America life. Still, the former Science Hill High School star is doing the work to keep himself in shape, throwing bullpens and working out to be ready when the season is started.
“It’s tough. I’m feeling as good as ever and I have to put the brakes on,” said the 26-year-old left hander. “But I’m feeling good throughout all this and am ready to go whenever they give us the green light.”
Norris, who sports a 15-30 career record with 382 strikeouts and a 4.49 earned run average, found the speed improved with his health. In addition, he has experience on his side, ready to enter his seventh Major League season.
“This spring, my fastball was back up to 95 (mph),” he said. “I was really happy to have the velocity back. I had a positive change-up that I learned last year and was able to throw better. I had some mixed results in the spring, but I was working on some stuff. Like I said, my body hasn’t felt this good in years now.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Norris has stayed in Tampa. While the Tigers complex is now shut down, he has friends to work out with it. He’s not facing hitters, but still feels good about where he’s at.
He’s also paid attention to the Tigers’ medical staff, staying away from family in Johnson City and his new home in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“When all this went down, I wanted to see everyone,” he said. “I had to take the advice of the doctors and trainers and all of them said to stay here. It’s not worth the risk at this point.”
Norris is coming off a rough 3-13 season, which he and the other Detroit pitchers had little run support. The Tigers ranked last in the majors in runs scored, although Norris expected significant improvement with off-season acquisitions — which included outfielder Cameron Maybin, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, first baseman C.J. Cron and catcher Allen Romine.
“We were excited about what we were about to put on the field,” he said. “This spring, everyone was swinging the bat well. Everyone was healthy so that’s a little bit of a bummer to put that on hold. But if it’s meant to be, it will be and we will be ready to go.”
Currently, the league is exploring options of when to return to play. Proposals have included playing games in empty stadiums with a specific plan to bring players and coaches to Arizona. While Norris and his teammates prefer to be in front of the fans, they’re ready to get back on the field as soon as it’s safely possible.
“Honestly, at this point, we just want to play ball,” he said. “We play for the fans and they’re the reason we get to go out there and do what we do. At the end of the day, they are going to be able to watch us on TV and see us on the field.
“I think everybody is understanding of the circumstances in the worst-case scenario that they don’t get to be in the stands. It would be weird for sure, but at the same, I think we are ready for us to play ball.”