PHILADELPHIA -- Bud Norris may not rejoin the Braves' rotation at any point during this season, but if the right-hander continues to pitch as effectively as he has since moving to the bullpen, he could prove to be one of the reliable late-inning relief options Atlanta has been seeking.
After spending the past three weeks being primarily used as a long reliever, Norris secured a four-run lead with a scoreless eighth inning during Friday night's 7-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The 31-year-old's hard-sinking fastball sat around 96 mph, or about three miles per hour faster than his fastball averaged when he had to conserve his energy as a starter.
"His stuff is good, and he does such a good job," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "He could be really big. Those are pressure innings right there when you're trying to get to your closer. I love what I saw [on Friday]."
The Braves entered this season hoping that Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli would serve as capable setup men for closer Arodys Vizcaino. But Johnson's struggles landed him on the disabled list last week, and Snitker said there has not been any recent discussion about when the veteran reliever might return. Grilli has battled inconsistency after a ruptured left Achilles tendon nearly ended his career last July.
Since losing his rotation spot after his ERA reached 8.74 through five starts, Norris has posted a 1.32 ERA and limited opponents to a .209 batting average over 13 2/3 innings as a reliever.
"Right now, I know he'd like to start, but we like him there for now, and I think he'll give us a big boost down there in that situation," Snitker said.
The Braves could also gain another legitimate late-inning relief option within the next two weeks, once Shae Simmons completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Simmons has recorded six strikeouts and pitched around three walks in two scoreless innings during his Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.