Baltimore Orioles designated veteran right-hander Bud Norris for assignment, marking the end of his career with the team. Manager Buck Showalter and evecutive vice president Dan Duquette talk about the move. (Kevin Richardson)
The Orioles' acquisition of outfielder Gerardo Parra in Friday's trade-deadline deal with the Milwaukee Brewers marked the end of Bud Norris' time with the team. The Orioles designated the veteran right-hander for assignment shortly after announcing the Parra trade, parting ways with a key piece of their 2014 rotation.
The Orioles had been attempting to trade Norris in recent weeks, but were unsuccessful. After designating him, the Orioles have 10 days to either trade or release Norris, but as of now, the team is still on the hook for approximately $3.53 million of Norris' $8.8 million salary this season.
Norris won a career-high 15 games in 2014, but struggled to match that success this year in his final season before reaching free agency.
He lost his rotation spot earlier this month after going 2-7 with a 6.79 ERA in 11 starts. He was sent to the bullpen for the first time in his big league career to pitch in mostly long relief.
As a reliever, Norris didn't fare any better, posting an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. He was charged with four runs on six hits over 2 2/3 innings out of the 'pen in the Orioles' 9-8 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
"He just never really got going from spring training on," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's got some real good pitching ahead of him. It just wasn't going to happen there. … We tried so many things. I think being the competitor that Bud is, he won't probably think that, but in the long run this is probably a good move for him. It hurts because he was such a contributor for us last year. We kept waiting for him to get a couple starts under his belt and take off, but it just never happened. We just got to the point where we just couldn't continue down that road."
A strong personality with a blue-collar mentality who pitched with fearlessness on the mound, Norris played a big role with last season's division-winning club. Norris was 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts last season.
This season, Norris struggled in spring training and got off to a rocky start before missing four weeks with bronchitis that caused him to lose 13 pounds. Once he returned on June 7, he made five starts before being demoted to the bullpen when the club decided to keep right-hander Kevin Gausman in the rotation.
"He was very instrumental in our success last year," Showalter said. "It's a real reminder about how things snowball mentally and emotionally. Physically he's fine and someone's going to pick him up and he's going to pitch well for them. Sometimes you just ask yourself, 'Is it going to happen there this year?' I think Bud needs a fresh start and he's going to pitch well for whoever picks him up and he's going to pitch well for someone next year. He's healthy and strong. He just needs a fresh start. I think this is actually a blessing for him because he needs to be starting."
Norris was 9-1 with a 2.85 ERA last season against American League East opponents last season. His .900 winning percentage against division opponents was the third-best single-season mark in club history. He was also the winning pitcher in the team's series-clinching American League Division Series Game 3 win in Detroit, tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.
"Bud had a great 2014 for us," catcher Caleb Joseph said. "He was one of the main reasons we made it to the American League Championship Series. He won 15 games and the pitched an outstanding game against the Tigers in the playoffs. He's a good teammate; he's a good friend. He's going to be missed. Just kind of a bitter part of the business, like we saw with Delmon [Young being designated], sometimes you forget that there is a business aspect in this game and it's just unfortunate that another one of the guys that was with us when we made that run last year has to go a separate way now."
Norris' Orioles teammates in both the rotation and bullpen said he will be missed.
"It is frustrating, especially for the starting pitchers," right-hander Chris Tillman said. "We were so close with him and it's almost like we failed at the same time. It's a bummer because we are all in it together. We live and die with how each other do. He knows that and we know that. It's disappointing for us just as much as it is for him."
Said closer Zach Britton: "He got sick and things just kind of snowballed a little bit. And it was unfortunate because we were relying on him and hoping that he could kind of turn it around down in the bullpen. But it's tough. It's not where he needs to be. He needs to be in the rotation somewhere. I'm sure someone is going to pick him up right away. It's unfortunate, but where we are now, just trying to get another bullpen piece."
Right-handed reliever Mychal Givens got the phone call around 1:30 p.m. on Friday informing him he was being called up from Double-A Bowie to join the Orioles for the second time in his career.
While Givens gives the Orioles an optionable arm in the 'pen — something they haven't had for stretches of the season — Showalter doesn't expect to send him back down right away.
"I'm planning on him pitching out of our bullpen for the foreseeable future," Showalter said. "I hope it's the last time he's in the minor leagues. It'll be kind of up to him."
In his third season since being converted from shortstop, Givens has been superb in 34 appearances with Bowie. He holds a 1.79 ERA in 55 1/3 innings and has struck out 77 batters compared to 16 walks.
"They trained me well and they took good care of me through the process of getting converted," Givens said. "They gradually went one inning and gradually started working on getting late innings and multiple innings."
The 25-year-old has converted 14 of his 16 save chances at Bowie. Givens was called up June 20 and made his major league debut on June 24, tossing a clean inning against the Boston Red Sox while recording one strikeout.
Britton said this time will be different, though, because of the Orioles' position in the standings with the second half of the season under way.
"He's going to … get the taste of what it's like to be in the postseason race and trying to fight for spots," Britton said. "It'll be a tough little thing for him being in that situation where it's not audition, it's about being effective for a winning team. I think he's going to handle it. He's got a good head on his shoulders."
The Orioles showed their trust in Givens when they were reluctant to part ways with him during trade negotiations at the deadline.
With right-hander Mike Wright, another minor league hurler with options, also recalled before Friday's game, the Orioles now have multiple relievers with flexibility. But Showalter has made it sound like he would be reluctant to option Givens if he proves to be effective.
"I don't want to get to the point where we have to option somebody," Showalter said. "I hope we pitch well enough where that doesn't come into play."
Tillman unsure on Monday start
Tillman, who sprained his left ankle coming off the mound to cover first base in the ninth inning Wednesday night, said his ankle was more sore Friday than he anticipated. Tillman said he considers himself day-to-day, but remains optimistic about his chances of making his next scheduled start when the Orioles open a nine-game West Coast road trip Monday in Oakland.
"I don't think it's going to be anything serious," Tillman said. "If it's not my normal start day, maybe a day, two days tops. But it honestly could very easily be my day."
If Tillman is unable to make his scheduled start, Wright could be an option if he isn't used out of the bullpen before then. Wright has started six games for the Orioles this season, going 2-3 with a 5.16 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.
Around the horn
The Orioles designated infielder-outfielder Chris Parmelee for assignment before Friday's game to clear 25-man roster space to add Parra. Parmelee hit .216/.255/.433 with four homers and nine RBIs in 32 games with the Orioles. He hit three homers in his first two games, but batted .148 over with one homer in his last 22 games (17 starts). His defense at first base let the Orioles experiment with Chris Davis in right field, but utility man Ryan Flaherty has also seen time recently at first base, making five starts in six games at the position. … Joseph was credited with a single on a hit was that was originally scored an error on Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 3-1 loss to the Rays last Friday. … Low-A Delmarva right-hander John Means threw a seven-inning no-hitter Friday in Game 1 of a doubleheader. Means, who walked one on the day, is 8-7 with a 3.48 ERA.