Norris Has A Good Feeling

Statistically it wasn't quite the debut season left-hander Daniel Norris had hoped for a year ago, posting a combined 8.44 ERA between Bluefield and Vancouver. However, behind the numbers there was some real progress made and he says that with everything he learned last season and a strong offseason this year that he has a good feeling for the 2013 campaign.

"Being 100 percent honest I'm really glad that the season went the way that it did," he admitted. "Obviously I faced adversity and that was basically the first time in my life that I faced adversity and I'm really happy that I learned from it.

"I know what to expect now, I know how to bounce back, and it made me even more hungry this offseason for [2013]. I learned how to prepare and I'm really excited for this year.

"Obviously going into my first year I wouldn't want to face adversity the way that I did but after it happened I was well aware of why it happened and now I know how to get back from that. I'm excited and looking forward to this year."

One of the more prolific high school pitchers prior to his second round selection in the 2011 draft, Norris had never experienced failure before and that took some getting used to.

It wasn't the inflated ERA totals that bothered him, it was the little things that went wrong leading up to it that he could not really let go as the season went on.

"Definitely how to prepare and bounce back from start to start," he said of his biggest learning lesson. "Mechanically I learned just a ton throughout the whole year, learning how to pitch, learning how to attack hitters, but I also learned a lot about myself and about the mentality that I have to have going in from start to start.

"Say I gave up a hit or messed up on a pitch, now I know how to go back and erase that. It's not the end of the world. I learned a lot about myself."

It is extremely tough for fans, pundits, and even the players themselves to truly realize that where the most progress is being made is when a player struggles. Norris learned that first-hand through his debut season experience, that there was progress made behind the struggling numbers.

"Honestly, in every aspect of my pitching I feel like I made improvements," he said emphatically. "One that stands out to me and to my coaches as well was the command and pitch-ability of my changeup.

"It ended up being one of my better pitches, just being able to throw it for strikes and it really was an out-pitch for me. They called it a swing-and-miss pitch for me.

"My curveball has always been one of my best pitches and a strikeout pitch for me. I could always go to that one when I needed it. A lot of times last year they told me not to go to necessarily what I need, 'don't go to your curveball because we know you can get guys out with your curveball, but we want to see you get people out with your changeup because that's part of developing'.

"I knew it was going to be tough but I accepted that challenge and I said 'I'm ready for that'. I did that and it went both ways. There were some good games and some bad games but like I said I learned from it.

"I used that changeup and it's 100 percent better, and that's part of the reason I'm excited. Now I have four pitches that I can throw for strikes and feel 100 percent confident in them."

He has become good friends with Pittsburgh Pirates' top pitching prospects Jameson Taillon in recent years and the two have been working out together this offseason, and Norris says he's been able to pick his brain.

"Me and him have been good buddies for a few years and we've been hanging out and talking pitching," he revealed. "It's been great.

"He's been a successful pitcher and he's been telling me that his first year he struggled a little bit like I did and just how he bounced back last year, the pitches he worked on and how to pitch."

One of the biggest lessons Norris has learned from his first-year experiences and now working with Taillon is how the games isn't just about physical attributes -- it's about being mentally prepared and strong.

"Just the mentality, have the confidence on the mound that you can get that guy out," he said. "I feel like I did my work last year with my pitches and worked hard in my bullpens, and got a feel for my pitches.

"I'm very confident in those pitches and now it's about having that confidence out on the field. My coaches last year all said the same thing -- my bullpens were golden. What I have to do now is take those bullpens out with me on to the mound in the games.

"In my bullpens I did everything I needed to do. My pitches had great action. I did everything right in the bullpens and now it's just a matter of taking that out into the field.

"Just having confidence out there is the main thing, have confidence and courage when I'm out there and not back down. Just stay confident, stay courageous, that's the main thing."

Though his 2012 debuts season numbers might not exactly prove it, Daniel Norris is extremely confident he can bounce back with a completely different performance in 2013.

"Absolutely. I was talking to Jameson [the other day] and I told him I don't know what it is -- I don't know if it's the work I put in this offseason but I have a good feeling about this year. There's something in me that says this is going to be fun.

"Obviously there are going to be ups and downs like there is every single day of our lives but I'm excited about this year. I think it will be pretty fun," he concluded.

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