DETROIT — Daniel Norris has dealt with a dead arm in each of the last three seasons, and he’s relieved that it wasn’t a major issue this spring. So, too, is Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
“That’s where I was kind of concerned because it lasted a month that year (in 2015),” Norris said. “And last year it lasted one start and this time it lasted (about) four days. Not concerned anymore.”
The loss of velocity in his pitches isn’t so much of a hindrance so much as it’s the loss of command. Spring training in 2015 was worse because of how long it lasted and how much he had to wait before getting back to a workable level of effectiveness. Still, this spring wasn’t fun, either.
Regardless of the prior experience in dealing with a dead arm, Norris began overcompensating with his pitching delivery because of the lost velocity. As a result, his attempted locations were nowhere near the mark and he paid for it on March 27 — his second-last start of spring training.
Norris got lit up for nine runs on 13 hits across a mere three innings. His arm felt like it weighed 80 pounds. He didn’t have pain, there was just such a heaviness and a waterlogged feeling to the arm. He couldn’t feel the ball coming out of his hand at all.
Dealing with a dead arm is different from an off day where the velocity is down from general fatigue — a pitcher can still feel the ball and there’s a measure of life. For Norris, all of that was absent.
While there was never an overabundance of concern about whether Norris would be able to start the season on schedule, the rotation change did provide some extra cushion for recovery time.
“That’s part of the reason we pushed him back to Sunday in this series,” Ausmus said. “With the rainout and (Jordan) Zimmermann being sick, that’s the reason we went with (Matt) Boyd and pushed Norris back and Zimm back — Zimm to get healthy from the illness and Norris just to give his shoulder just a little bit more rest.”
As of Friday, Norris said he no longer feels the effects of the dead arm and is looking forward to his first start of the season on Sunday. That the sun is expected to be out only helps, a nice contrast to the conditions the team has played in for the first couple of games. And he’s not dealing with a major injury this time around, either.