Norris' confidence high after third rehab start

Lefty could be nearing return to Tigers; Zimmermann, J.D., seeing Minors action Friday

Norris' confidence high after third rehab start

DETROIT -- Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris' most recent battle with an injury is nearing its end. Norris, who has fluctuated between the disabled list and Minor Leagues this season, made his third rehab start since being activated from the DL following a right oblique strain.

Norris allowed three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings Thursday at Double-A Erie, picking up his first win in the three outings. He said he felt much better than he did in his last two outings.

"In my first two rehab starts, I would feel good the first few innings, then I would get tired," Norris said. "Last night was the opposite. I got stronger as the game went on."

Norris has made three starts with the Tigers this season, going 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA. He also had a one-inning, scoreless relief appearance in May.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said the club has a strong idea of what will happen next with Norris, but he wanted to see what happened in Jordan Zimmermann's (neck) rehab start Friday at Triple-A Toledo. 

Zimmermann's eight strong frames

Zimmermann allowed one earned run over four innings and surrendered six hits against the Gwinnett Braves, throwing only 78 pitches in his second rehab start. He threw four scoreless innings and allowed four hits against Norfolk on Sunday.

Ausmus said after Friday's 14-6 win over the Astros he was aware of Zimmermann's results, but he will wait until after he talks to Zimmermann to make any decisions.

Norris said he feels like he is ready to go after throwing between 93 and 96 mph Thursday, which is the range he typically hits when he is fully healthy. Norris said it felt good to see hitters swinging and missing at all of his pitches in the strike zone. 

Norris felt he was just settling into a groove when he suffered the injury at Cleveland on July 4. After Thursday, he thinks he's about to get into that groove again.

"My confidence is high right now," Norris said. "I just felt really good. Before I got hurt, I was starting to feel that again, so that was frustrating, but I'm glad to be pitching again."

Anibal Sanchez and Matt Boyd have filled in the back end of the Tigers' rotation as Norris and Zimmermann work their way back. Boyd made the start Friday, while Sanchez's last start came on Sunday. Sanchez's next turn in the rotation is being skipped due to the team's off-day this past Thursday.

The Tigers had eyes on another player in Toledo on Friday, as J.D. Martinez -- who has been on the DL with a fractured elbow since June 17 -- made his third rehab start as the designated hitter. He went 1-for-5, dropping his average to .333 in three games with the Mud Hens.

J.D. Martinez exits with injury

Martinez picked up four hits over his first two games. He threw long toss on Friday in an attempt to get back into the field, but he still felt sore. Ausmus did not rule out the possibility of Martinez returning to the Tigers by the end of the current nine-game homestand.

Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.