Top prospect Norris keeps calm in pressure-packed debut

Blue Jays left-hander falls behind, but strikes out Red Sox slugger Ortiz

Top prospect Norris keeps calm in pressure-packed debut

BOSTON -- The Blue Jays usually like to have rookies make their Major League debuts in low-pressure situations, but Daniel Norris was tossed right into the fire, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

Toronto manager John Gibbons was trying to pick the right opportunity for Norris to make his first appearance, but he didn't have that luxury Friday night. With left-hander Brett Cecil unavailable to pitch and left-handed-hitting Boston slugger David Ortiz due up in a crucial situation, Gibbons had to make a move.

Norris entered to face Ortiz with the tying run on second and two outs in the seventh inning. That would be enough to cause a little bit of stress to even the most experienced pitchers, but Norris handled himself just fine by striking out Ortiz in an at-bat that featured a couple of nasty curveballs.

"I know this sounds weird, but for a minute I kind of had to put my debut aside because there was a runner on second in the seventh inning of a 4-3 game and I was like, 'I can't let this guy score,'" Norris said.

"I was definitely mindful of, 'This is my first appearance, this is pretty crazy,' but at the same time it was like, equally, I wanted to get out of that inning for the guys."

The first pitch of Norris' career was a perfectly placed curveball that caused Ortiz's knees to buckle. He fell behind 3-1 as Norris admitted his delivery was a little bit out of whack, but he managed to recover with a fastball that brought the count full.

Norris then struck out the perennial All-Star looking with yet another impressive curveball. It was an ideal ending to a moment for which Norris spent the past few days preparing.

"I had been envisioning facing him," said Norris, who is ranked as Toronto's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. "It's kind of weird that it ended up that way, but I knew there was a possibility I'd have to face him. I was thinking about the way I'd throw him, and sure enough, I got the call to be ready for Ortiz.

"It's something I'll never forget. It's something that will be with me forever, one of those memories that will always be back there."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.