Norris builds up pitch count, shrugs off results

Norris builds up pitch count, shrugs off results

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Braves signed right-hander Bud Norris as a free agent over the offseason, counting on him to rebound from a disappointing 2015 and solidify their rotation as the No. 2 starter.

A promising start toward that goal hit a speed bump Tuesday during a 10-6 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Norris saw his Grapefruit League ERA spike from 1.80 to 7.88 after he allowed six runs on nine hits and a walk in three innings.

Norris shrugged it off.

"I'm just going to take it as a work day and getting my pitch count up and getting my legs back under me," Norris said after throwing 57 pitches, 39 for strikes. "I got my work in. I really had a couple things I wanted to work on. Fastball command is still the priority right now. I cut some fastballs, which I'm not normally doing, but it's definitely a good sign that I'm staying over the rubber.

"I made some good pitches. I made some bad pitches. They swung the bat a little better and put some good swings on bad pitches from my end. But you've got to get some double plays, you've got to make some plays on defense."

Manager Fredi Gonzalez also said he's unconcerned.

"The numbers are going to look a lot worse than I thought he pitched," Gonzalez said, mentioning a grounder that got past first baseman Nick Swisher in the first and a flare that fell between second baseman Gordon Beckham and right fielder Jeff Francoeur in the third.

After Norris tried to field a bunt by Tigers center fielder Tyler Collins in the third, the trainer visited the mound.

"I'm getting my baseball legs back under me," said Norris. "I've had shin splints since I was a young kid, so it's just achy pains. Very minimal. I got some ice on it and we'll just monitor it from here on out."

The first four batters of the game reached against Norris on a double by Ian Kinsler, a walk to Justin Upton and singles by Miguel Cabrera and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"I thought he did a great job getting out of the first inning," said Gonzalez. "It could have been ugly right out of the chute and he did a nice job of minimizing the damage in that first inning and only gave up two runs."

After a 1-2-3 second, four of the first five hitters in the third got on, including a three-run homer by J.D. Martinez that hit the top of the wall just to the left of the batter's eye in center.

Gonzalez also focused on how Norris settled down to retire the side in order in the second.

"That's a professional guy," Gonzalez said. "He puts those innings behind him."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Dansby Swanson showed why the Braves were anxious to get him from the D-backs at the Winter Meetings in December. The first overall pick in the 2015 Draft doubled in the top of the eighth and made a nifty defensive play to throw out pinch-hitter Mike Gerber in the bottom of the inning.

"He's a special player," Gonzalez said of the club's top prospect. "You don't get picked No. 1 in the country if you're not a special player. But what I like about him is the way he conducts himself and his work ethic and his character. Those are the things you don't see, but he brings it every day."

• Right-hander Jose Ramirez, the only player in camp without options, upped his Grapefruit League scoreless streak to six innings with a shutout fourth.

• Left-hander Alex Torres faced the last four hitters of the game, three of them left-handed hitters, and retired them all.

"I thought he was really good," Gonzalez said of Torres, who has allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings this spring.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.