The Cincinnati Reds added another pitcher to their spring training roster on Wednesday, signing left-handed reliever Daniel Norris to a minor league deal. With his deal comes an invite to big league camp, bringing the number of players in Goodyear on the Major League side of things to 65. The Reds will also have another 49 minor league players in “Early Minor League Camp”, and it’s likely that early on in the spring schedule of games that you will see several of these players showing up.
A former starter, Daniel Norris has been in the big leagues for parts of the last nine seasons. He made his debut with Toronto as a 21-year-old back in 2014 and has pitched for the Blue Jays, Tigers, Brewers, and Cubs along the way. He’s had ups-and-downs in his career, posting ERA’s under 4.00 in parts of three seasons, but also having an ERA over 5.00 in parts of three seasons, too.
Two of those three seasons have come in the last two years. In 2021 he split the year between Detroit and Milwaukee and posted a 6.16 ERA in 57.0 innings. Last year he split his season between Chicago with the Cubs and Detroit, posting a 5.22 ERA. But after he was released by the Cubs and then picked up by Detroit his ERA went from 6.90 with the Chicago in 30.0 innings to 3.45 with the Tigers in 28.2 innings.
So what happened in Detroit that turned things around? It was two-fold, it would seem. His control got much better as he went from 21 walks in 30.0 innings to just 8 walks in 28.2 innings – with that his strikeout rate also declined in a big way. But he also gave up fewer home runs, allowing 4 of them in Detroit after giving up 7 with the Cubs.
After he arrived in Detroit he began throwing his sinker less often that he had been throwing it in Chicago, and his slider usage dropped off a little bit, too – though he was still throwing it over 20% of the time. His ground ball rate was 43% while pitching for the Cubs, but it jumped up to 51% – a well above-average rate – in his time with the Tigers in 2022. His home run per fly ball ratio was also cut in half.
If the Daniel Norris that pitched for Detroit in 2022 shows up this spring, he could find himself making the team out of spring training. A good ground ball guy who doesn’t walk batters can find plenty of success, even with a below-average strikeout rate.