Norris continues comeback with another strong start

Norris continues comeback with another strong start

JUPITER, Fla. -- After spending last season's final four months dealing with the fatigue and frustration created by a lingering illness, a reinvigorated Bud Norris has spent the past few weeks appreciating the opportunity he has been given to rebound as a veteran member of Atlanta's potentially young starting rotation.

Norris further strengthened his confidence as he delivered three solid innings during Thursday's 5-2 win over the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.

From both a physical and mental perspective, the veteran right-hander feels much stronger than he did last year when he posted a 7.06 ERA over 18 games (11 starts) before being released by the Orioles, a team that had given him two postseason starts in 2014.

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"You never know what is going to happen," Norris said. "You've just got to go out there and make pitches. But yeah, I expect to have a good year and I expect to do good things. I want to pick back up from where I was in 2014 and forget 2015. I know I can pitch. When I take care of myself and I execute my pitches, anything can happen."

The 31-year-old, who will serve as Atlanta's No. 2 starter, surrendered just one run while allowing four hits during his 53-pitch outing against the Marlins. Dating back to Saturday's Grapefruit League debut against the Pirates, he had retired 11 straight batters until the Marlins' Jeff Mathis doubled with two outs in the second inning.

The lone run Norris surrendered came after Don Kelly opened the third by beating a defensive shift with a bunt to the unguarded left side of the infield. Before Miguel Rojas scored Kelly with a two-out single, Norris recorded a successful pickoff of Ichiro Suzuki at first base.

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"He did a nice job," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a professional, and he knows what he needs to do."

Norris allowed at least eight earned runs in two of his four April starts last year, then missed nearly a month after he developed bronchitis in early May. He spent this offseason focusing on regaining the strength that he lost while spending last summer battling both the illness and routine frustration.

"I learned a lot, and I'm going to be ready Opening Day," Norris said. "There's no doubt about it. I know how much I care about this game still, and I know I want to continue to play for a long time at a high level. I have a little chip on my shoulder, but I just want to help my teammates out and be the best teammate I can be."

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