No June swoon: Norris heating up for Padres

No June swoon: Norris heating up for Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Padres catcher Derek Norris continued his torrid June in Friday night's 7-5 loss to the Nationals, hitting his eighth home run of the season off Joe Ross to keep San Diego within striking distance.

While the Padres didn't manage to come back against Washington, Norris' hitting so far during June represents a significant resurgence from his slow start to the year.

"He's hitting the ball hard, very consistently," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's been good. Joe Ross was tough in the sense that he had that expand slider, out of the zone. We were chasing it."

Norris, though, said he was fortunate to see another slider -- a pitch he had just missed several times during the game -- with a 2-2 count during the sixth inning.

"I had been chasing his fastball up all day," Norris said, "and he just laid [the slider] in there good enough to where I could just sneak it over the fence."

He did just sneak it over the fence, too, as the estimated 344-foot shot was the shortest homer hit by a San Diego batter all season.

But you can't shortchange what Norris has been able to do this month. His three home runs are the third-most from a catcher -- behind Wilson Ramos and Evan Gattis -- through June, and his slugging percentage is good for third among catchers as well -- behind Ramos and Chris Iannetta.

While Norris' home run Friday night clearly shows that he is capable of damaging breaking balls, the 27-year-old catcher's average exit velocity on fastballs is up five miles per hour from May to June -- going from 88.19 last month to 93.32 during 13 games this month. For context, Yoenis Cespedes has averaged a 93.5-mph exit velocity this season.

"The first half of the year, if you look at where his contact was, where he hit fastballs, it was almost all of them the other way," Green said. "Now he's starting to get the head out more consistently.

"If you get the [bat] head out, you're going to hit the ball hard a little bit more often."

Norris acknowledged that he's more of a pull-side power hitter, but also said he wasn't going up to the plate explicitly trying to jerk balls down the third base line.

"Obviously I'm not a freak of nature, I can't leave the ballpark at any dimension of the field," he said. "But when it comes to home runs, pretty much all but like one or two are pull side.

"So it's not something I try and go up there and yank it, just let the natural mechanics of my swing take care of that."

Carlos Collazo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter @CarlosACollazo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.