Norris recognized for his defense

Norris recognized for his defense

SAN DIEGO -- Padres catcher Derek Norris has received his share of criticism and praise this season -- and it's been almost exclusively based on his offense. He struggled at the dish to start the year, before turning things around emphatically in June.

But while Norris' slump has come and gone, he's been steady behind the plate all season -- and that's far more important to the 27-year-old backstop than anything he does offensively.

"Offense is going to be inconsistent," Norris said. "It's going to be inconsistent for everyone. You fail seven out of 10 times, you're in the Hall of Fame. On defense, you fail seven out of 10 times, you're getting released. I just want to be able to bring it every day, defensively, making sure I'm taking care of my pitching staff before anything else."

Earlier this week, Norris had his defensive efforts recognized when he took home ESPN's Defensive Player of the Month for June. Among catchers this season, Norris is tied with Salvador Perez atop the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved at +9.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Norris blocked 99 pitches in the dirt in June, while only allowing three wild pitches, giving him the Majors' fourth-highest block rate.

"If the guy on the mound doesn't trust that I'll keep it in front of me, then he's not going to trust anything else," Norris said. "That's as important as anything I do, making sure the guy on the hill trusts that you'll keep everything in front of you."

Norris has also shown marked improvement over the past couple of seasons in his pitch-framing ability. He says he hasn't changed anything in that regard -- only that he's learned the nuances of presenting strikes over time.

Padres skipper Andy Green said it's largely the result of Norris' willingness to put in the time, studying his pitchers.

"Any catcher that's going to be successful has to care more about his pitchers than he does himself," Green said. "If you want to be great as a catcher, that guy on the mound matters more than you do. If you take that approach, you have a positive impact on the game, regardless of how you're swinging the bat."

Amarista optioned to Triple-A

To clear room for Sunday's starting pitcher, Andrew Cashner, the Padres optioned utility man Alexi Amarista to Triple-A El Paso before their game against the Yankees. Amarista is hitting .256/.319/.280 in 41 games.

The move means San Diego will use an eight-man bullpen at least until the All-Star break, after righty relievers Paul Clemens and Jose Dominguez joined the club on Friday.

"Right now we want to keep our pitching depth up here, get an opportunity to take a look at some guys like Clemens and Dominguez, see where they're at, see what they can bring to the table." Green said.

The decision to option Amarista instead of Ryan Schimpf is largely because San Diego hasn't yet gotten an extended look at its rookie second baseman. In 15 games, Schimpf is hitting .143 with a .311 on-base percentage. He launched his first home run on Friday night.

"We've been a little bit more committed to giving Schimpf a measure of opportunity up here right now," Green said. "Thirty at-bats isn't enough to look at a guy and judge him."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.