Norris moves past odd year, learns from it as well

Norris moves past odd year, learns from it as well

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though Bud Norris has come to Braves camp intent on forgetting about the disappointment he experienced last year, the veteran pitcher understands he can also benefit from all that he learned during the turbulent season.

"It's all in hindsight now," Norris said. "It was a big learning curve for me. I have a lot left in this game and I'm excited to start fresh."

All seemed right in Norris' world when he produced a career-best 3.65 ERA and made two postseason starts for the 2014 Orioles. But all suddenly went wrong last year as Norris posted a 6.79 ERA over 11 starts and was released by Baltimore on Aug. 8.

Looking to take advantage of the opportunity to buy low on a veteran pitcher, the Braves opted to give Norris a one-year, $2.5 million deal in December. They are hopeful that the 30-year-old right-hander can provide some much-needed experience to their young starting rotation and also regain the successful form he displayed just two years ago.

"Sometimes, people need a fresh start and a new place to land," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Norris escapes a jam

Norris allowed at least eight earned runs in two of his four April starts last year and then was weakened by an odd illness that struck him after he delivered seven solid innings against the Mets on May 5. He struggled through 3 1/3 innings against the Yankees five days later and then missed a month as doctors tried to figure out why he was feeling sick and losing weight.

After being activated from the disabled list, Norris allowed two earned runs or fewer in three of five June starts. But he lost his spot in Baltimore's rotation after he allowed the Rangers five runs over six innings on June 29.

"A lot of things went against me," Norris said. "I really thought I was kind of snakebit. There were some crazy plays that happened early in the season that got me off to such a bad start."

As Norris spent most of last season's final two months as a Padres reliever, he struggled to regain the weight and strength he lost while battling what a personal practitioner eventually diagnosed as bronchitis.

Having had a chance to regain some of his strength during the offseason, Norris is looking forward to making an impact in Atlanta. He stands with Julio Teheran and Matt Wisler as the only pitchers who are currently slated to begin the year in the Braves' rotation.

Though veterans Kyle Kendrick and Jhoulys Chacin are in camp as non-roster invitees, at least one of the two available rotation spots could be filled by one of the club's talented young pitchers. This group of candidates includes Williams Perez and Manny Banuelos -- both of whom gained some big league experience last year.

The Braves might opt to provide Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair and Tyrell Jenkins some further Minor League development at the start of the season. But there is a chance that each of these hurlers could crack the rotation at some point this year and benefit from the guidance a veteran like Norris can provide.

"There's no science to this game of baseball," Norris said. "I've just got to hand down some information and I'm going to take some stuff from them too and we're going to work together."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.