Ausmus, Jones explain handling of Norris

Ausmus, Jones explain handling of Norris

ARLINGTON -- Daniel Norris' 54-pitch first inning on Tuesday night was the longest inning of any kind by a Major League pitcher since former Pirates starter Paul Maholm threw a 54-pitch third inning against the Cardinals on May 9, 2010, according to STATS. It was the longest opening inning since Wandy Rodriguez threw 55 pitches for the Astros in Atlanta on Aug. 1, 2007.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus' response to criticism in some circles about letting his 22-year-old rookie left-hander throw that many pitches in the first inning, then come back out for the second, was comparatively short.

"I don't have one," Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon when asked for his response. "They have a lot less knowledge of Daniel Norris and baseball than I do, so I'm not really concerned with it."

Pitching coach Jeff Jones had a longer response, trying to explain the club's stance as well as the process of setting pitch limits for its young pitchers.

"I've seen it all over the place already," Jones said. "I think [the limit] depends on the individual, and I think it depends on how strong the guy is. In his outings previous to yesterday, he was throwing the ball fine. He's totally healthy right now."

Norris, who threw 71 pitches in 1 2/3 innings in Tuesday's 7-6 loss, said he felt nothing more than his regular day-after-start soreness. He compared the workload to a lengthy side sessions he would throw between starts while coming up through the Blue Jays' farm system.

"I was throwing like 70-pitch bullpens in the Minor Leagues, working on curveballs and still trying to hammer down the delivery," Norris said.

Still, given that the Tigers have been eliminated from postseason contention, the common question from critics and baseball officials alike was the benefit of not only letting Norris' pitch count get so high in the first inning, but sending him back out for the second as well. The answer from the Tigers' staff centered on development.

Ausmus wanted to get Norris at least close to his limit of 80-85 pitches so that he could be further stretched out for his final start of the season, Sunday against the White Sox. The end goal of that is to send him into the offseason at full strength.

"It's important going into next season for him to know that he belongs," Jones said, "The fact that he's come back from the [oblique] injury, came back quicker than we thought, I think the experience he's gotten will help him down the road."

Said Norris: "It's huge. A lot of people told me [after the oblique injury last month] to hang tight and go into the offseason healthy, rest up and get ready for next year. But I couldn't let myself do that. I wanted to keep throwing. I still feel like I have stuff to prove. More than anything, I wanted to play. I want to go out there and help the team. I was very grateful for the opportunity to try to come back."

Jones talked about the process of deciding whether to pull Norris or keep him going as the first inning went on, then sending him back out for the second. There were points when he was close to exiting.

"We had talked about it during the inning," Jones said. "There were a couple times Brad said, 'If this guy gets on, then we'll make a switch.' We talked about sending him back out for the second inning, and I talked to him at length after the first inning to make sure he was OK. We went down the runway and talked for five minutes about going back out and pitching.

"He really wanted to go back out. I mean, you could see when Brad came out to take him out of the game, he was upset."

Norris tried to bargain to get one more batter so he could get closer to the count.

"I think it showed, especially going back out there for the second inning, regardless if I was fatigued or not -- it could've gone either way -- it showed that he had faith in me to go out and have a good inning," Norris said. "Obviously it didn't go the way I wanted it to, but that was a big step forward, I think."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.