For the nostalgic Blue Jays fan, Vol. 1: Daniel Norris
By Evan Stack3 months ago
We’ve reached the World Series, and unless there’s any free-agent news, contract extensions, or trades, there isn’t much to talk about in regards to the Toronto Blue Jays. To fill that void, I had an idea to start a series of nostalgic articles throughout the offseason.
I’m a nostalgic fan. I thoroughly enjoy watching old Blue Jays highlights, even if almost irrelevant players were taking the field for Toronto. If I hear names like Travis Snider, Munenori Kawasaki, or Steve Delabar, I’m instantly taken back to how times were when those players dawned the Blue Jays uniform.
With that being said, I inserted every Blue Jays’ player’s name since 2009 into an Excel sheet and assigned them a number. 2009 is when I started watching the Jays regularly, so that was my “minimum year” in order to provide the most knowledgeable information. I’ll select a number through a random number generator, and do a quick writeup on the selected player.
Who knows? Maybe a player will trigger a memory (good or bad) and get the Jays fans thinking of old times. For the first random selection…
Norris is a former Blue Jays farmhand who spent many years atop Toronto’s top prospect rankings, and was a main piece in the deal to acquire David Price at the 2015 trade deadline.
He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft. As each year passed, Norris posted better and better numbers throughout the minor leagues. In 2012, Norris was the fifth ranked prospect in the Jays organization, only trailing names like Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Anthony Gose.
In 2014, with a 2.53 ERA across time in Dunedin, New Hampshire, and Buffalo, the highly-touted lefty got the call up to the big leagues. His major league debut was on September 5, 2014, during a road game in Boston. At this point in the season, Toronto had just won five games in a row, and was still fighting for wild card spot.
He only faced one batter, and struck him out. John Gibbons must’ve liked the left-on-left matchup, because that batter was David Ortiz.
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With the Blue Jays still searching for answers in their rotation starting the 2015 season, Norris’ body of work between the minors and majors during the previous year earned him a spot in the starting rotation. Even if he wasn’t named to the Opening Day roster, Norris was the top prospect in Toronto’s organization according to MLB.com. His first start of the season came against the New York Yankees on the third game of the year.
Norris impressed, earning a win over CC Sabathia, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing three runs, and striking out five (two of those five being Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran).
Despite posting a 3.86 ERA through five starts to begin the season, Norris was dealing with some serious control issues, walking 12 batters in 23.1 innings. Even Russell Martin was having trouble keeping pitches in front of him, showing the signals that a minor league stint might need to happen in order to work on his command.
Norris was sent to Buffalo, and although the corresponding move was to call up Andrew Albers, Marco Estrada earned Norris’ spot in the rotation. We know how that went.
The rotation seemed to hit its stride, as Estrada, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, and RA Dickey were getting the job done to an extent. However, the Jays knew they needed a proven ace to complete their playoff push. On July 30, 2015, the Blue Jays traded Norris, along with Matthew Boyd and Jairo Labourt to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for David Price.
Price was stellar for the Blue Jays down the stretch, making every bit of that deal worth it. As for Norris, he has spent three separate stints with the Tigers, most recently in 2022.
Aside from Detroit, Norris has also spent time in Milwaukee and Chicago with the Cubs. Through nine years in the bigs, Norris owns a 4.71 ERA with an 8.4 K/9. While he has yet to have a season in which he has had an ERA under 3.00, Norris ended the 2022 year with a 3.45 ERA during 12 appearances in Detroit, perhaps transitioning into better days for the now-29-year-old lefty.
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