By one count there were 17 scouts from Major League Baseball at Coca-Cola Field Wednesday night.
It’s not wholly unusual with the trade deadline just nine days away, but the volume was notable. Daniel Norris was on the mound for the Buffalo Bisons and the left-handed pitcher has been the subject of trade rumors for weeks now.
Does that make Norris nervous?
“I don’t really care. I honestly don’t care,” he said.
He was able to exhale a bit Wednesday, getting just his third win as the Bisons defeated the Syracuse Chiefs, 4-3.
The focus for the 22-year-old Norris remains clear – to improve his execution, strive for perfection and be the best pitcher in the world.
“I want to be the best pitcher in the world so you know you gotta be pretty close to perfect to be that,” Norris said. “I expect that out of myself. I just kinda keep tapping into last year and how I felt and the confidence I had. This year has been difficult at times but at the same time I’m going out there and competing. There’s never been an ounce of me that’s given up. That will never happen. You know at some point the tide will change and things will start going my way again and I’ll start executing better. It’s just part of the game.”
Norris has thrown well since being optioned to the Bisons on May 1, but has just a 3-10 record to show for it.
Some of those loses came from a dismally inconsistent Buffalo offense. Some of it came as Norris failed to execute his pitches, usually highlighted by one poor and costly inning. While he felt good finally picking up another win, there are plenty of things he wants to do better.
Like strike guys out.
“I’ve got to put guys away,” Norris said. “I haven’t really been striking out guys like I can so that’s kind of frustrating for me because that’s the kind of pitcher I am. I need to be better at that. If I get ahead of a guy it’s just putting him away and I haven’t been doing that. Perfect example was in the first inning.”
Norris was facing Jayson Werth, the Washington Nationals slugger who is with Syracuse on a rehabilitation assignment.
“When I got Werth 0-2 and he wanted a fastball up and away and I threw a fastball kinda down and away and he reached out and got it,” Norris said. “I’ve got to be better at that. It’s that simple.”
Norris gave up three straight singles in the first inning which allowed the Chiefs to take a 1-0 lead. But his teammates responded with four runs, giving Norris room to be more aggressive, more relaxed and find his rhythm.
He was solid in the second and third, gave up a double and walk in the fourth. Then he started missing high and players were getting good swings on his pitches. There were two hits in the fifth then two doubles in the sixth which scored another run.
“The ball is up in the zone a little bit too much where he could pound down,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “I thought he threw a few down there that he didn’t get a call on and that’s not why you come up. If you stay down there you’ll get some calls. He did a pretty good job.”
Slowly, Norris is regaining is confidence and looking back to what made him successful last season.
In 2014, he made his Triple-A debut with the Bisons on Aug. 10 and struck out 13 batters in his second start. He made his big league debut less than a month later and earned his first MLB Opening Day roster spot with the Blue Jays.
But in Toronto he went 1-1 with a 3.86 earned run average in five starts and was sent back to Triple-A.
“There’s times when I say I’m hit or miss and it’s all about getting to the top of my delivery and executing it,” Norris said. “When I’m on I have confidence in everything. I think I can get anybody out and there’s sometimes when I’m cutting the ball and missing and that’s when I get behind and start walking guys. We’re trying to iron it out and everything and do better but you’re human. It’s hard to be perfect.”