Tigers bring up Norris to bolster bullpen

Tigers bring up Norris to bolster bullpen

WASHINGTON -- After a season-opening stint on the disabled list and then a stint in the Minors, Daniel Norris is back in the big leagues, though not in the way anyone would have imagined going into the season. The Tigers recalled the promising young left-hander from Triple-A Toledo, but he's expected to serve as an extra arm in the bullpen rather than join the rotation.

Essentially, his role will be to cover innings for a bullpen that has been taxed over the past several days. The Tigers made it through Tuesday's 5-4 win with a short bullpen thanks in part to five outs from Drew VerHagen, but they couldn't do that again.

"This was more a matter of need," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Norris was the likely candidate for the fifth spot in Detroit's rotation out of camp before he injured his back. After his up-and-down rehab assignment, the Tigers optioned him to Toledo full-time to work on his stuff.

The 23-year-old Norris is 0-3 with a 9.98 ERA in four starts for the Mud Hens, allowing 17 earned runs on 23 hits over 15 1/3 innings with 10 walks and 19 strikeouts. He gave up seven earned runs on eight hits over 2 1/3 innings in his most recent start, last Friday, allowing four walks against five strikeouts.

"Body-wise, I've been feeling really good," said Norris, who said his early outings have been more of a Spring Training for him after he missed the stretch run of camp. "I'm trying to get back on the ball, but arm-wise, the stuff feels really good. I'm pleased with that. I'm more kind of refining everything right now."

Norris has been keeping track of the Tigers' ups and downs from afar, he admitted, but added that it hasn't always been helpful.

"I've definitely been following," Norris said, "but at the same time, I've had to focus on myself and not catch myself doing that. Obviously, I want to be here. This is the ultimate goal. I think sometimes when you're down there in Triple-A, you start trying to get here too much rather than focusing on the task at hand. I think I've been battling that a little bit."

To open space for Norris on the 25-man roster, the Tigers optioned outfielder Tyler Collins to Toledo after his uneventful two-day stint in the Majors. Detroit recalled Collins on Monday to restore the bench to full strength for Interleague Play, but he didn't appear in either of the first two games against the Nationals. Andrew Romine got a late-inning assignment in center field on Monday over Collins, who has not appeared in a game since his ill-fated game against Oakland at Comerica Park on April 25, when he directed an obscene gesture at fans.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.