The very first pitch Daniel Norris threw Monday sailed over his head, past the outfield and cleared the left field wall at Coca-Cola Field.
His body language on the mound looked angry, though he wouldn’t go so far as to use those words.
“I mean, I wasn’t happy about it. ... It was kind of like a wake up. Ok. This is how it’s gonna be,” Norris said.
That’s when Norris started to dictate how the game was going to unfold.
He set the next four batters down via strikeout and aside from a few bumps, had a solid outing for the Buffalo Bisons. Norris picked up the win as the Herd finally found offense to complement its starting pitching in a 9-4 win over the Durham Bulls Monday night.
It felt like another doomed start for the Bisons, who were coming off six straight road losses in which they were shutout four times and combined to score just five runs.
But Norris didn’t let the opening-pitch home run at 6:04 p.m. define the next batter he faced, let alone the rest of the game.
“I mean, it is what it is,” Norris said. “It’s all just kind of part of the game. It happened. Time to move forward. … I was just kinda like, well, I’ll do this now.”
“This” included a solid repertoire of off-speed pitches – slider, changeup and curve ball. Even his fastball, which reached 92-94 miles per hour, felt better than it has in recent outings.
“I was very pleased with,” off-speed pitches, Norris said. “Slider was good. Curveball was good. My changeup was really good. Even my fastball command, I was kinda going in and out when I needed to, making some good pitches with that. I could feel and see the life on it coming back, so I’m excited about that.”
He’s excited, too, about the way his arm feels.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a long time, body-wise, arm-wise, everything,” Norris said. “I had command of most of my stuff and I was encouraged by it. A good step in the right direction.”
In April, he told Toronto reporters he was experiencing a dead arm phase after his worst outing for the Blue Jays on April 19. He gave up five runs while recording just eight outs against the Atlanta Braves.
As a rookie with the Blue Jays, he made five starts, going 1-1 with a 3.86 earned run average. On May 1 he was optioned to the Bisons and took a loss in his first start for the Herd – a 1-0 loss at Durham on May 6 where he gave up one run on four hits, throwing 53 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
Monday was a better outing, although he had some difficulty in the fifth and stumbled in the seventh.
He gave up a run in the fifth, an inning which included two walks and a broken bat single.
In the seventh, with one out and a runner on first, he made a bad throw on a pickoff attempt. The runner took second. He followed that with a walk and was lifted from the game, after throwing 103 pitches.
Both those runners scored, but were considered unearned runs on Norris’ final line – although they were unearned because of his error.
“Yeah, that was pretty bad,” Norris said of his pickoff move. “We’re always working on it. It eliminates opportunities for them if I can hold them close. It’s something I need to work on.
“During the week on my side day we’re always working on the pickoff move and I can do it great, but it’s just sometimes I get in the game and things speed up and I’ve just got to trust the muscle memory of the work I’ve been doing. It’s definitely a work in progress.”
Might he be overthinking the move to first when he’s in games and not trusting that muscle memory?
“Maybe so, I think. Especially if I know I’m picking over, then I kinda get in my own head to try and make it not obvious and in turn that makes it very obvious.”
“He’s got to work on shutting down the running game a little bit,” manager Gary Allenson said. “His move is not very good. That’s something he’s got to deal with there, but overall he pitched pretty good. Threw most of his pitches for strikes. Wasn’t predictable. Pitched better than the numbers probably indicate.”