It's nice to have depth, isn't it? With the Detroit Tigers searching for answers in their starting rotation, they no longer have to plunge the depths of their minor league system for an arm. With apologies to Buck Farmer, gone are the days that the Tigers need to call up a prospect from Single-A to make a spot start. Dark days, indeed.
Instead, the Tigers made the call to Triple-A Toledo, where former top-20 overall prospect Daniel Norris was biding his time. Norris was originally considered a heavy favorite to start the season in the Tigers' rotation, but a back injury in spring training sent him to the disabled list instead. Between Michael Fulmer's emergence and some inconsistent early results of his own, Norris hasn't been needed in the major league rotation until now.
Norris' minor league ERA isn't pretty, but many of the runs he allowed came early in the season when he was still getting back into a rhythm. He has been better of late, holding opponents to a 2.76 ERA and .640 OPS in his last seven starts. His peripherals are excellent as well, with a strikeout rate approaching 25 percent and a manageable walk rate. He was stingy with the home run ball as well, allowing just one dinger in 11 minor league starts.
Can Norris translate those results to the major league level? A strong start could earn him more time in the Tigers' rotation, and would go a long way in helping them stretch Fulmer's innings into September.
Seattle Mariners (36-36) at Detroit Tigers (37-35)
Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Lookout Landing
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Adrian Sampson (0-1, 7.71 ERA) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (4-6, 4.68 ERA in Triple-A)
If you're nervous about Daniel Norris' chances today, just imagine what Mariners fans are thinking about Adrian Sampson. The 24-year-old righthander was called up last week to make his major league debut in place of an injured Wade Miley. His opponent? The Boston Red Sox, who lead the American League by a wide margin in many statistical categories (including wRC+, at 118). Sampson did his best, even taking a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning, but was eventually tagged for four runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Now he gets to face a Tigers offense that has been roaring at home lately. Even if you include their early season home woes, the Tigers are 20-13 at Comerica Park this season and scoring 5.2 runs per game, one of the highest outputs in baseball. They are 15-4 at home since May 16, while the Mariners have lost 14 of their last 19 games overall.
Can Sampson limit the Tigers, though? Minor League Ball's John Sickels profiled Sampson when he was called up last week.
Age 24, Sampson is listed at 6-2, 210. He utilizes a three-pitch mix with a four-seam fastball in the 87-94 range, averaging 91; while mixing in sliders and change-ups at various velocity slots in the low to mid 80s. In the minors he's been hittable, giving up 647 hits in 593 innings, but seldom beats himself with walks, posting a 422/125 K/BB.
Sampson posted solid strikeout-to-walk numbers in the minor leagues, but has never been a high strikeout guy. He fanned 61 hitters in 80 1/3 innings at Triple-A Tacoma this year, and struck out just 17.2 percent of batters he faced in 162 2/3 minor league innings last season. His 3.25 ERA and 1.16 WHIP this season are actually pretty impressive considering the hitter-friendly environment that is the Pacific Coast League.
While the Mariners' offense is tied for second in the American League with a 109 wRC+, their numbers against left-handed pitchers aren't as solid. Their 98 wRC+ against southpaws ranks in the middle of the pack, and they are hitting just .243/.300/.407 against left-handed starters. This is largely due to a lefty-heavy lineup, one that has mashed right-handed pitching. Their lefties aren't doing so well against lefty pitchers, however, hitting just .212/.274/.331. If Norris can limit big righty bats like Nelson Cruz, Dae-ho Lee, and Franklin Gutierrez, he could come away with his first win of the season.
Norris gets a little wild but the Tigers still sweep.
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