Norris with the Detroit Tigers in 2015
|Detroit Tigers – No. 44|
|Born: April 25, 1993|
Johnson City, Tennessee
|September 5, 2014, for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2019 season)
|Earned run average||4.54|
Minor league career
The Blue Jays drafted Norris in the second round (74th overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft. Baseball America rated Norris as the 91st best prospect in baseball prior to the 2012 season. He was ranked as the number 4 prospect in the Blue Jays minor league organization on July 26, 2013, when the revised Top 100 Prospects list was released.
Norris began his career with the Rookie-Advanced Bluefield Blue Jays and Low-A Vancouver Canadians in 2012, where he pitched to a combined 2–4 record, an earned run average of 8.44, and a 1.78 WHIP.
In 2013, Norris split time with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts and High-A Dunedin Blue Jays, and finished the season with a 2–7 record, but made a major improvement with his ERA, which dropped to 3.97.
Norris began the 2014 season in Dunedin, and earned a 3–0 record with an ERA of 0.80 through his first 9 starts. On June 3, 2014, he was announced as the Pipeline Pitching Prospect of the Month of May. He posted a 1–0 record and a 0.68 ERA over 5 starts to win the award. On June 15, he was called up to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats after posting a 6–0 record, 1.22 ERA, and 1.025 WHIP in 13 starts with Dunedin. Norris appeared in the 2014 All-Star Futures Game on June 24, 2014.
As of the 2014 midseason update, he was considered the Blue Jays' top prospect, and 25th overall prospect in baseball by Baseball America. With New Hampshire, Norris had a 3–1 win-loss record, 4.54 ERA, and struck out 49 in 352⁄3 innings before he was promoted to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on August 7. Making his Triple-A debut pitching in the first game of a double-header on August 10, Norris earned the win, pitching six innings against the Durham Bulls and gave up only two hits while striking out 10, including Wil Myers, on a rehabilitation assignment for the Tampa Bay Rays. In his following start, he struck out a career-high 13 over 52⁄3 innings, making him the first pitcher in Bisons history to have back-to-back starts with at least 10 strikeouts. Norris pitched five innings and earned his third win in three tries on August 21, against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struck out nine, walked three, and gave up one hit, a home run. While speculation circulated that the Blue Jays intended to move Norris to the bullpen following his third Triple-A start, they instead announced on August 22 that he would continue in a starter's role. In total for 2014, he posted a 12–2 record with a 2.53 ERA and 163 strikeouts over 1242⁄3 innings. On September 3, Baseball America named him to their First Team All-Stars for 2014. He was named to the MLB All-Prospect Team on September 26.
Major league career
Toronto Blue Jays
On September 1, 2014, Norris was called up to the Blue Jays as part of the September roster expansion. On September 5, he made his MLB debut against the Boston Red Sox, striking out David Ortiz. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons announced on September 23 that Norris would make his first major league start on September 25, and would pitch 2–3 innings. Norris pitched 31⁄3 innings and yielded 2 earned runs on 1 hit, 2 walks, while striking out 1. In total for 2014, Norris pitched 62⁄3 innings with the Blue Jays, and post a 5.40 ERA, 4 strikeouts, and a 1.50 WHIP.
Norris had arthroscopic surgery on October 7, 2014 to remove bone spurs and loose bodies from his left (pitching) elbow.
On January 21, 2015, Norris was named by MLB as the third-best LHP prospect in baseball. In 2015, MLB named Norris as the number 1 Blue Jays' prospect, the number 3 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and the 17th best prospect overall. He opened the 2015 season in the starting rotation for the Blue Jays. After his fifth start, Norris was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on May 1.
On July 30, 2015, Norris was traded to the Detroit Tigers along with Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt in exchange for David Price. In his debut for the Tigers on August 2, Norris pitched 71⁄3 innings and struck out five Baltimore Orioles hitters, allowing one walk, four hits, and just one earned run on a solo home run by Chris Davis in the fourth inning. Following the home run to Davis, Norris retired the next 12 batters in a row, earning the win in a 6–1 Tigers victory.
On August 19, 2015, Norris became the first Tigers pitcher to hit a home run in his first career plate appearance, the first pitcher to do so since Tommy Milone in 2011, and the first American League pitcher to do so since Esteban Yan in 2000. He also became the first Tigers pitcher to homer since Jason Johnson did so on June 8, 2005, and the first American League pitcher to ever hit a regular-season home run at Wrigley Field. Norris exited the game in the fifth inning with a right oblique strain, and was placed on the disabled list the following day.
Norris was recalled from the disabled list on September 16. In his second start after returning from the injury, he threw five perfect innings in a September 22 game against the Chicago White Sox, but was pulled from the game after reaching a predetermined pitch count. The Tigers eventually lost the bid for a combined no-hitter with one out in the ninth inning when Neftali Feliz, the fifth pitcher used, surrendered a triple to Tyler Saladino.
Norris finished the 2015 season (combined stats between Toronto and Detroit) with a 3-2 record in 13 starts, while compiling a 3.75 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 60 innings.
On March 24, 2016, the Tigers announced that Norris would start the 2016 season on the disabled list, due to a lower back issue suffered during spring training. He was recalled to the Tigers on May 11, 2016, but made only a one-inning appearance against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12 before being returned to AAA Toledo. Norris was recalled again on June 21 following the demotion of Matt Boyd, and made his first start of the 2016 season on June 23. After pitching two innings plus one batter in a July 4 start against the Cleveland Indians, Norris was removed from the game. He was later diagnosed with an oblique strain, the same injury he suffered in late 2015, and was placed on the disabled list for the third time in his career. Norris returned to the mound for the Tigers on August 9 to start a game against the Seattle Mariners. In a September 12 game against the Minnesota Twins, Norris struck out a career-high 11 batters in just 6 1⁄3 innings. Norris made 13 starts for the Tigers in 2016, finishing the season with a 4–2 record and a 3.38 ERA, while striking out 71 batters in 69 1⁄3 innings.
Although he logged the most innings of his young career (101 2⁄3), Norris took a step backward in 2017, posting a 5–8 record and a 5.31 ERA while striking out 86 batters. Norris dealt with hip and quadriceps issues during the season, and admitted he dug a "deeper hole" by trying to come back too soon from a DL stint.
Norris started the season in the bullpen as a long reliever. He made a spot start on April 29 but came out of the game in the third inning with groin tightness, which he has been dealing with since 2017. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list the next day which marked the fourth straight season on the DL since the Tigers acquired him. It was announced a day later that the injury would require surgery and Norris will miss 8 to 12 weeks. He was moved to the 60-day disabled list on May 8. Norris returned from the disabled list on September 1, but came out of the game in the fifth inning with a left leg injury right after giving up a 2-run home run which earned him the loss. The home run was the only hit he gave up that game. During the 2018 season, Norris failed to earn a win in eight starts and three relief appearances, going 0–5 with a 5.68 ERA.
On January 11, 2019, the Tigers avoided arbitration with Norris, agreeing on a one-year, $1.275 million contract. Norris ended the season with a 3-13 record despite setting career highs in games (32), starts (29), innings (144 1⁄3) and strikeouts (125). In the latter part of the season, the Tigers limited Norris to three innings per start in an effort to manage his workload.
On January 10, 2020, the Tigers avoided arbitration with Norris, agreeing on a one-year contract worth $2,962,500.
Norris features four-seam and two-seam fastballs that average about 92 mph and top out at 96 mph. He also throws a slider and a circle change that both average about 85 mph, and a curveball in the mid 70s. He learned all of the pitches by his senior year of high school. In 2012, he overhauled his pitching mechanics to improve the repetitiveness of his delivery.
Norris is a Christian. Norris has said, “I know God has a plan no matter what. No longer do I live and die by my success. I live and die by my faith in God. Everything after that is just an added blessing.” Norris has also said, “I’ve never been really interested in the lifestyle of the rich and famous. I’m not intrigued by a lot of the same things my peers are. The things that draw me in are more simple. I try to surround myself with the simple things such as mountains, surfing and nature, because that’s what I enjoy. I’m inspired by it; it’s how I grew up. I’ve never been tempted to stray from that. By being in creation, I’m able to learn about and enjoy God’s artwork. Seeing what God has created is simply magnificent! However I can play in it — hiking, surfing, camping or practicing photography — I want to share that with others so they can experience the beauty of God’s handiwork as well. Baseball is definitely my main passion and focus, but these secondary things are also a big part of my life. However I can use my life to point others to God, while enjoying the way He’s created me, I will.
Norris's family has owned a bicycle shop in Johnson City, Tennessee, for more than 80 years. In the offseason, Norris lives by choice in a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia van, nicknamed "Shaggy". His unconventional lifestyle can be described as nonconformist and minimalist, and has raised eyebrows in MLB. Prior to the 2015 season, Tony LaCava, Toronto's assistant general manager, said of Norris "He takes care of himself as well as anybody we've got. He's in great shape. He competes on the mound. If that wasn't the case, maybe we'd be more worried about some of the other stuff. But right now, the van and all that is secondary. He has great values, and they're working for him."
Despite his $2 million signing bonus, Norris lives off just $800 a month. In an interview with ESPN he was asked why he chooses to continue to live so conservatively. He asked back, "Who am I to deserve that? What have I really done?" He has also said, "I'm actually more comfortable being kind of poor," as it helps him maintain a minimalist lifestyle and resist conformity.
On October 19, 2015, Norris announced through his Instagram account that he had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He was diagnosed the previous April, and with a doctor's consent, he continued playing and delayed treatment until the end of the season. On October 29, Norris announced he was cancer free following a successful surgery to remove a malignant growth from his thyroid.
One of Norris' hobbies is photography. During the 2015 season, he acquired professional photographer Ben Moon's Canon EF 85mm portrait lens, and the two became friends. That offseason, the two went on a road trip together, from Norris' home state of Tennessee to Oregon, where Moon is based. Moon has turned footage from the trip into a short film, titled "Offseason."
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