DETROIT — Daniel Norris’ delivery never felt right, even with the Blue Jays. It wasn’t until working with pitching coach Rich Dubee in 2016, that an adjustment to his windup yielded positive results at the tail end of that year.
In addition to a wonky delivery, Norris had already dealt with a dead arm, cancer, and a fractured back in the space of a year. If it wasn’t one thing it was another. His arm is so quick, that the rest of his body had a hard time catching up. The result was what felt like a jerky windup. If he was going to fix it, it needed to be done right.
“You can speed up your delivery, but if you don't do it the right way you are going to be rushing it,” Norris said. “The thing with my old delivery, where it was slow and methodical, I was actually rushing even though it was slow. Because every time I would come up, I'd pick my leg up and then I'd be falling off the rubber going to the plate.”
By improving Norris’ tempo, his rhythm became smoother. He felt like he had regained control of his delivery, and it was at the behest of Dubee that it came to fruition.
What changed, exactly, was Norris’ leg kick, which is now higher. He loads his windup on the back leg more, but with a more deliberate motion, which is contrast to his delayed, “calm and methodical” delivery from before. The difference was “night and day better.” He picked up the speed of his delivery and in doing so found stability.
“That was the thing,” Norris said. “My velocity went up, but I just wasn't trying to throw any harder. My delivery was more sound, more natural. It went from one-two-three-four, it was just one to five all at once.”
Norris wasn’t continuously back with the Tigers until Aug. 9. Prior to that, he’d flipped time between Triple-A Toledo and rehab games recovering from the spinous process fractures. Much of that minor league time was inconsistent at best, largely because of his injuries.
Once healthy and in Detroit, though, he and Dubee began discussing adjustment. On Aug. 30, Norris decided to test the changes in a real-game situation. The difference he felt was immediate, more of an easy delivery.
Norris would go on to finish 2016 with a 3.12 ERA, averaging 2.5 runs and 11 strikeouts (slightly warped by the 11-strikeout night Sept. 12) per start across six games. The hope now is that he’ll go into 2017 without health concerns and become a solidified part of the rotation.