A fairly typical April potpourri of Michigan weather has forced cancellation of Wednesday’s scheduled contest between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. Cold temperatures and rain can sometimes be suffered, but the additional element of high winds made the situation untenable. The game has been rescheduled into a double-header during the next series between the Tigers and Royals on April 20th. And, as a result the rotation is getting shuffled, with Daniel Norris apparently the odd man out.
As reported by Evan Woodbery of MLive, the cancellation means that Norris’ scheduled start on Wednesday will instead be skipped. Jordan Zimmermann will take the hill for the Tigers on Thursday for the Chicago White Sox’s home opener. After an off day on Friday, the series resumes with Michael Fulmer and the return of Mike Fiers scheduled to start Saturday and Sunday’s games, respectively.
The fallout here, is that Norris appears likely to be available out of the bullpen for the next two games, but is presumably headed for Toledo when Fiers returns. Short of cutting Fiers loose before he even threw a pitch in live action, there really is no other remedy. The Tigers need Norris stretched out as a starter, and a full-time move to the bullpen never seemed likely. The question is whether the Tigers are doing the right thing for his development by stashing him in Triple-A and burning his final option in the process.
Fiers struggled with a back issue and was totally ineffective this spring, though he has a track record as a decent major league starter. He is coming off the worst season of his career at age 32, but had posted solid seasons the two years previous. Norris ran a 12:5 strikeout to walk ratio over 14 2⁄3 innings this spring. He posted a 3.86 ERA and showed his usual mix of inconsistent command and stuff. Those numbers are roughly indicative of Norris’ young career in the major leagues.
The issue has been looming ever since the Tigers signed Francisco Liriano. Neither Liriano or Fiers can be optioned to the minors, and so both are now blocking Norris. While this isn’t a huge issue in the short term, one has to wonder what the 24-year-old Norris is going to learn facing minor league hitters with 237 2⁄3 major league innings under his belt already. On a team that continues to stress getting younger and leaner in their public comments, the Tigers have once again devised a scenario in which younger, talented players are blocked by veteran free agents who won’t be around long-term and are quite unlikely to have any real value in trade.