Norris comes up big in rare start at first base

Norris comes up big in rare start at first base

ST. LOUIS -- The way his night was going offensively on Thursday, Derek Norris figured he had to find a way to contribute even if it didn't mean swinging a bat.

So Norris, who before Thursday's game against the Cardinals had only played 16 career innings at first base, did it with his glove.

Norris smothered a ball a first base hit by Yadier Molina with a runner at second base, saving it from going into right field, which would have likely scored the winning run in the ninth inning, giving the Padres some life in a game they ended up winning, 5-3, in 11 innings.

"I didn't come up to the plate with runners in scoring position, I didn't drive anyone in," he said. "I didn't get any hits or get on base so I'm trying to find some way to contribute.

"Tonight, that was my way. Whatever you can do to try and contribute."

Norris, the team's starting catcher, got the start at first base as rookie Austin Hedges handled duties behind the plate. The Padres would like to see more of Hedges, regarded as a plus-defender, but Norris has been good so far and it's tough not to play him.

So the Padres have used him sparingly at first base and did so Thursday instead of left-handed first baseman Yonder Alonso, as San Diego faced a lefty Tim Cooney.

It paid off, even if Norris was 0-for-5 at the plate.

"He thinks he's great, I love it," said Padres interim manager Pat Murphy. "… He knows we want him in there. It's just a great play, and great poise, to get the out. It made a difference."

Norris got to his feet quickly and flipped the ball to reliever Shawn Kelley, who was covering first base for the second out of the inning. Kelley got the final out to send the game to extra innings, where Will Venable won it with a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the 11th inning.

Venable's go-ahead home run

None of that, of course, would have been possible without Norris' save.

"It's alright. I'd much rather be behind the plate," Norris said when asked if he liked playing first base. "But it takes me from being on the bench and into the game, I'll take it. It's alright … I don't mind it."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.