Norris Looking To Make A 'Sanchez' Leap

They never said it would be easy. Left-handed pitcher Daniel Norris has learned that the hard way this year but he remains optimistic despite a less than stellar first season in the Toronto Blue Jays system and has found a friend to lean on through the tough times.

Norris made eleven appearances in Bluefield and in 35 innings, he allowed 35 runs, 31 of them earned runs. He was then promoted to Vancouver where in two starts he gave up nine runs over 7 and two third innings.

Throughout the season Norris has battled through a multitude of obstacles, including numerous rainouts, the trade of his piggyback partner Joe Musgrove, and a worrying family issue, all of which have derailed the 19-year-old's attempts to find any sort of rhythm or routine at the professional level.

"It's been an up and down year but I feel I've come a long way as a pitcher just learning mechanics. I'm making a lot of progress but there's still more work to be done," Norris said. "Overall it's more than the numbers for me.

"I know my pitching coaches and coordinators are very pleased with how I'm throwing the ball, it's just sometimes the results are going to come. More practice and trying to perfect everything, it's going to take time.

"It's been a very stressful year but from start to start I'm going out there clear-minded, ready to compete and try to win a ball game but sometimes it's just not going to go your way."

Canadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski was in Extended Spring Training with Norris. He's seen the flashes of brilliance that made the lefty from Johnson City, Tennessee, a coveted draft prospect but the Norris he describes doing side work in the bullpen is vastly different than the one that has taken the mound this season.

"Daniel has an electric arm but there's just some mechanical issues that create some bad habits – the ball gets flat on him a little bit but you know [he has] terrific upside," Czajkowski said. "When he throws his bullpens and when he throws his sides and even getting right into the game he was spot on perfect.

"We know it's there but we have to transfer what he does in the bullpens to the game and not let him think that's he's gotta do more than what he's capable of doing."

In the face of the adversity he has encountered this season, Norris hasn't lost focus on the details for success. He recognizes that locating his fastball is of the utmost importance and will allow him to use his complimentary pitches effectively.

"Fastball command, that's for certain from the pitching aspect. I've learned to push myself in my workouts and I've been working harder than I ever have," Norris said. "A lot of people might think it's not paying off but I know it will in time.

"It's just a matter of time for the results to start happening and winning some ballgames but you know right now I'm taking it off the shoulder but I'm alright."

Fortunately, Norris has someone he can confide in that experienced similar growing pains last year. 2010 supplemental first round pick Aaron Sanchez posted a combined 5.30 ERA between Bluefield and Vancouver last season before breaking out this season with Lansing. Sanchez has been a guiding voice for Norris and reminds him that it's not an easy process.

"Me and Aaron are really close actually, ever since I was drafted he's taken time to talk to me. We've been very good friends and we've talked throughout this season. He says the same thing, ‘I had a rough year my first year just kind of getting some stuff figured out'," Norris said.

"You know what, my ERA is high but as long as I throw the ball well and I'm making progress I feel good about it. Truthfully my velocity has been more consistent than it even was in high school. I'd have some games where I would be up and some games where I was down. I'm very confident it's a matter of putting it all together soon."

Czajkowski foresees slight mechanical changes for Norris but maintains that he will see drastic improvements when he settles in and takes the game just like practice.

"There's some mechanical adjustments we have to make. He can make them in the bullpen, it's just taking them out to the game. In Instructional League it's a little more casual when you go out to the games, it's very much like the Extended program," Czajkowski said.

"We're going to have more coaches and staff there so we can really get hands on. When he takes what he does in the bullpen out to the mound and he trusts what he does he's going to be fine."

Norris knows what he needs to fix; now he must execute. He's approaching the offseason with great perspective and he is dedicated to putting himself into a position to make the same leap his friend Sanchez made this season.

"I'll be headed down to Instructional League," Norris said. "That will be another good opportunity to continue to work on delivery and just fine-tuning everything we've been working on since Spring Training. Being able to throw strikes and make quality pitches you know that's the main thing," Norris concluded.

"For me patience is a virtue, it's not going to come right overnight, maybe not even the first year but I can assure everyone this offseason that I'm going to go out and work as hard as I can every single day, working hard in the weight room and also on my mechanics, and I'll come here next year ready to pitch better."


Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nNorris made eleven appearances in Bluefield and in 35 innings, he allowed 35 runs, 31 of them earned runs. He was then promoted to Vancouver where in two starts he gave up nine runs over 7 and two third innings.
\r\n
\r\nThroughout the season Norris has battled through a multitude of obstacles, including numerous rainouts, the trade of his piggyback partner Joe Musgrove, and a worrying family issue, all of which have derailed the 19-year-old's attempts to find any sort of rhythm or routine at the professional level.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's been an up and down year but I feel I've come a long way as a pitcher just learning mechanics. I'm making a lot of progress but there's still more work to be done,\" Norris said. \r\n\"Overall it's more than the numbers for me.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know my pitching coaches and coordinators are very pleased with how I'm throwing the ball, it's just sometimes the results are going to come. More practice and trying to perfect everything, it's going to take time.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's been a very stressful year but from start to start I'm going out there clear-minded, ready to compete and try to win a ball game but sometimes it's just not going to go your way.\"
\r\n
\r\nCanadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski was in Extended Spring Training with Norris. He's seen the flashes of brilliance that made the lefty from Johnson City, Tennessee, a coveted draft prospect but the Norris he describes doing side work in the bullpen is vastly different than the one that has taken the mound this season.
\r\n
\r\n\"Daniel has an electric arm but there's just some mechanical issues that create some bad habits – the ball gets flat on him a little bit but you know [he has] terrific upside,\" Czajkowski said. \"When he throws his bullpens and when he throws his sides and even getting right into the game he was spot on perfect.
\r\n
\r\n\"We know it's there but we have to transfer what he does in the bullpens to the game and not let him think that's he's gotta do more than what he's capable of doing.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn the face of the adversity he has encountered this season, Norris hasn't lost focus on the details for success. He recognizes that locating his fastball is of the utmost importance and will allow him to use his complimentary pitches effectively.
\r\n
\r\n\"Fastball command, that's for certain from the pitching aspect. I've learned to push myself in my workouts and I've been working harder than I ever have,\" Norris said. \"A lot of people might think it's not paying off but I know it will in time.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's just a matter of time for the results to start happening and winning some ballgames but you know right now I'm taking it off the shoulder but I'm alright.\"
\r\n
\r\nFortunately, Norris has someone he can confide in that experienced similar growing pains last year. 2010 supplemental first round pick Aaron Sanchez posted a combined 5.30 ERA between Bluefield and Vancouver last season before breaking out this season with Lansing. Sanchez has been a guiding voice for Norris and reminds him that it's not an easy process.
\r\n
\r\n\"Me and Aaron are really close actually, ever since I was drafted he's taken time to talk to me. We've been very good friends and we've talked throughout this season. He says the same thing, ‘I had a rough year my first year just kind of getting some stuff figured out',\" Norris said.
\r\n
\r\n\"You know what, my ERA is high but as long as I throw the ball well and I'm making progress I feel good about it. Truthfully my velocity has been more consistent than it even was in high school. I'd have some games where I would be up and some games where I was down. I'm very confident it's a matter of putting it all together soon.\"
\r\n
\r\nCzajkowski foresees slight mechanical changes for Norris but maintains that he will see drastic improvements when he settles in and takes the game just like practice.
\r\n
\r\n\"There's some mechanical adjustments we have to make. He can make them in the bullpen, it's just taking them out to the game. In Instructional League it's a little more casual when you go out to the games, it's very much like the Extended program,\" Czajkowski said.
\r\n
\r\n\"We're going to have more coaches and staff there so we can really get hands on. When he takes what he does in the bullpen out to the mound and he trusts what he does he's going to be fine.\"
\r\n
\r\nNorris knows what he needs to fix; now he must execute. He's approaching the offseason with great perspective and he is dedicated to putting himself into a position to make the same leap his friend Sanchez made this season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'll be headed down to Instructional League,\" Norris said. \"That will be another good opportunity to continue to work on delivery and just fine-tuning everything we've been working on since Spring Training. Being able to throw strikes and make quality pitches you know that's the main thing,\" Norris concluded.
\r\n
\r\n\"For me patience is a virtue, it's not going to come right overnight, maybe not even the first year but I can assure everyone this offseason that I'm going to go out and work as hard as I can every single day, working hard in the weight room and also on my mechanics, and I'll come here next year ready to pitch better.\"
\r\n
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