The Rays must set their 25-man roster by 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. They are expected to add first baseman Carlos Pena, who had been reassigned to Minor League camp Friday. To clear room on the 40-man roster for Norton's replacement, left-hander Jon Switzer will be moved to the 60-day disabled list.
Norton, who was signed as a Minor League free agent prior to the 2006 season, enjoyed a fine season for the Rays. The 34-year-old hit .296 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 98 games playing first base, designated hitter, left field and right field.
"I really don't know the exact time [when I hurt my knee]," Norton said. "When the guys went down to Fort Myers [on Thursday], we had a practice here. [I] did some [pitcher fielding practice], some extra hitting. And that night, there was some swelling in the knee, it was a little sore, but I didn't think much of it. Then [on Friday] in Sarasota, I was running before the game and I told [Ty Wigginton] that my leg didn't feel right. And as the game went along, my knee didn't feel right. As the game went along -- scoring from second and a stretch at first -- it just seemed to get worse every inning."
Norton returned to St. Petersburg and had an MRI exam performed that revealed the meniscus tear.
The irony is that Norton hurt his leg at the end of Spring Training for the second year in a row. In the second-to-last Spring Training game of 2006, Norton strained his left hamstring and was reassigned to Minor League camp the following day to rehab.
"Just joking, I asked [Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew] Friedman if [next year] I could have the second-to-last day of Spring Trianing off where I just don't get out of bed," Norton said. "It's unfortunate. I think we've played really well. As a team, everybody was starting to swing the bat well. Our pitching has been solid all spring. Not really having great results, but I was feeling much better at the plate. And it's kind of deja vu, last year the same thing happened."
Dr. Koco Eaton, the orthopedic team physician, will perform Norton's surgery Monday at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He is expected to be out four to six weeks.
A corresponding roster move to replace Norton is forthcoming.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.