Norris makes strong first impression with O's
Day after being acquired from Houston to bolster staff, hurler holds Astros in check
BALTIMORE -- For a brief moment Wednesday after the Orioles acquired starter Bud Norris from the Astros, it seemed as though the club had an overstuffed rotation. That changed when Jason Hammel hit the disabled list the same day, but even so, it was a problem that seemed unthinkable six weeks ago.
The Orioles, who have now used 14 starters this season, struggled to get consecutive strong starts and rarely had their starters pitch seven complete innings. Now, although it's not exactly an embarrassment of riches, the acquisitions of Norris and Scott Feldman, as well as Wei-Yin Chen's return from a two-month stint on the DL, have made the rotation more formidable.
Norris faced the Astros on Thursday, just one day after they shipped him across the hall to the Orioles' clubhouse. His Camden Yards debut went so well that he received two shaving cream pies to the face during a postgame interview, courtesy of new teammates Adam Jones and Alexi Casilla.
"I hadn't had one before, it was the first one of my career," Norris said after tossing six innings of two-run ball in a 6-3 win over the Astros. "You see it all the time on the highlight reel, and I had a feeling it might come. I'm pretty excited to take it; it was exhilarating."
Even manager Buck Showalter seemed amused.
"I just saw him come up [from the field to the clubhouse], he seemed to be wearing it well, so to speak," Showalter said after seeing the pied victim. "You didn't expect anything less, did you?"
The only two runs Norris allowed came on solo homers in the second and fourth innings. Brett Wallace, who grew up near Norris and played high school ball against him, hit one of the blasts.
"When you're competing against someone like that, it's a fine line to really focus and stay locked in," Wallace said. "You don't want to really break that concentration. There hasn't been anything really said yet. I'm sure we'll exchange texts or something at some point and talk about it. On the field, we were pretty much all business."
Norris echoed that sentiment, that it was weird overall, but between the lines, he tried to focus on pitching and getting comfortable with catcher Matt Wieters. The backstop said the pair were on the same page for the most part -- Norris rarely shook off Wieters' signs -- even with the lack of personal familiarity. Norris' command of all his pitches made that easier Thursday, Wieters said.
"He was good. He was able to locate his fastball both in and out and mix in his offspeed, throw his slider behind in the count," Wieters said. "It was a good first run. I'm sure he has a lot of adrenaline, a lot of emotion going facing his former team, and especially when you just get traded. He handled it well and threw the ball well."
Starting on seven days' rest because he was scratched by Houston before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Norris threw 104 pitches, 65 of them for strikes.
Norris said it was a "pretty typical" start for him. He said he likes to pound the strike zone and get as many outs early in counts as possible.
"The fact that he pitched the day after he was traded against his former team and was able to go out there ... to go out and compete the way he did was huge," first baseman Chris Davis said. "That's what we expect out of him, to eat up innings and keep us in the ballgame."
Derek Wetmore is an associate reporter for MLB.com.. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.