Norris regains pop in longest outing of career

Rookie lefty gives up one run in seven innings vs. Rays

Norris regains pop in longest outing of career

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Daniel Norris didn't get the birthday win he was looking for on Saturday night, but the rookie left-hander can take solace in the fact that he deserved a much better fate.

Norris had the best outing of his young career in a 4-2 loss to the Rays. He allowed one run over seven strong innings and departed with a lead but his bullpen wasn't able to hold the game in check.

That created some short-term pain for the organization, but the long-term benefit is that Norris appears to be over a dead-arm issue that had been plaguing him through the first two weeks of the season.

"It was weird, something just clicked after the second inning, kind of felt back to normal," said Norris, who turned 22 on Saturday. "I think it was just trying to see how my arm was going to feel, and I was trying to, again, overcompensate with my body.

"Then coming out for the third, I just forced myself to stay back and almost kind of forced my arm to speed up back to normal, and sure enough it did. That was big for me."

Norris exposes butterfingers

Norris did have some minor difficulty in the first two innings. He allowed one run in the first and in both frames had a pair of baserunners, but after that the Tennessee native was borderline flawless. From the third until the sixth, Norris retired eight batters in a row and allowed only one baserunner to reach scoring position.

The seven innings marked the longest outing of his career and it came on a night when all of his pitches seemed to be working. The life on his fastball was back, which improved the effectiveness of his changeup, while the slider and curveball combination helped keep hitters off balance.

It was the type of outing that has the potential to carry over into future starts as the prized prospect looks to build some momentum. That's very positive news in what otherwise was a very frustrating night for the Blue Jays.

"It was a progression," Norris said. "Just going out there not knowing how I was going to feel. It was definitely on my mind the whole week leading up to it, just kind of put it behind me and go out there and compete ... For me, all week I was stressing over it, anxious to get back out there and see how I feel."

Not having his best stuff is something Norris hopefully won't have to worry about any more.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.