By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
FORT MYERS — When Derek Norris was released by the Washington Nationals on March 15, he went back to his home in Wichita, Kansas and waited for his phone to ring.
It took a little longer than he expected, but eventually the Rays came calling to essentially sign him as the team’s starting catcher.
Norris played in his first game with the Rays on Tuesday against the Twins. He went for 1 for 3 with a single at the plate, and also threw out a runner attempting to steal second base.
“It was nice to get back out there and catch some innings and get some AB’s,” Norris said. “You can watch video all day long, but once you get back there, what you want to call isn’t necessarily what they’re feeling the best with.”
One benefit to late additions or midseason trades for baseball players is that there’s really not a playbook for them to learn, and it’s easy to adjust to a new team.
But the one position where things are a bit more complicated is the catcher position because they quickly have to learn a new pitching staff. In the age of technology, that simplifies things a little bit.
“There’s different ways you can go about it,” Norris said. “It’s definitely going to be a speed course. Time is of the essence. I’ve got my iPad set up with all these guys here which is going to make it easier for me. I’ve either faced or played against or seen plenty of these guys. I’m not really unfamiliar with many of the guys in here.”
Norris says it’s not necessarily learning each pitchers’ pitches that’s the difficult part, but getting to know how to act with and talk to each of the different pitchers on the team.
“For me, it’s not so much studying the film aspect, which I will do, but it’s more so learning their tendencies and the dialogue of how they go about their business,” Norris said. “Getting to know their personality and when I take a mound visit, what are the right or wrong things to say or not to say. For me, that’s more important and trying to gain their trust and how they respond to certain things.”
Norris had his first test at catching a Rays starting pitcher on Tuesday, when he caught for team ace Chris Archer. In a minor league game on Sunday, he caught for a pair of relievers in Alex Colome and Xavier Cedeno.
“It’s nice to see things come together so fast for him,” Archer said. “It was a quick conversation before the game. He kind of felt me out in the bullpen and he had a long conversation with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey. It was nice.”
Norris was batting .352 in 17 at-bats with two homers and three RBI with the Nationals prior to being released. The team signed catcher Matt Wieters, therefore they didn’t need to be spending $4.2 million on a backup catcher.
The Rays signed him for $1.2 million with the ability to make another $800,000 in incentives.
The Rays announced the acquisition of outfielder Peter Bourjos Tuesday morning.
Coming from the White Sox, Bourjos was traded for cash considerations or a player to be named later. The late addition could possibly have implications on the Opening Day Roster.
“Right now, I don’t think anything is set in stone with Pete,” Cash said prior to Tuesday’s game. “I haven’t even talked to him yet. I’m going to call him after batting practice. Obviously, the right-handed outfield bat and a guy who can really, really defend. I like the way our outfield is shaping out.”
Bourjos has played parts of seven MLB seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. He has a lifetime .243 batting average, with a .300 on-base percentage. His best season was in 2011 with the Angels where he batted .271 with 26 doubles, 11 triples and 12 homers.
It’s Bourjos’ glove, however, which would likely get him to make the team. Not his bat.
Alex Cobb and Tim Beckham were scratched from appearances on Sunday, but according to Cash, both players are ready to go.
Cobb was scheduled to start a minor-league intrasquad game on Sunday, but missed it due to left lower back tightness.
“Cobb is fine,” Cash said. “I think we were smart in the decision to hold him back. The last thing you want him to do is aggravate something where he starts the season not feeling that good. He feels 100 percent.”
Cash says Cobb will throw a bullpen session today, and then make a start on Friday in Clearwater against the Phillies. Typically, the last start of the spring is a few-inning tuneup start, but Cobb will throw between 75 and 90 pitches.
For Beckham, his hip flexor issue wound up being good timing considering the off day on Monday. The Rays were able to get him three days of rest in order to be healthy for Opening Day. He could be back in the lineup today.
One more note in somewhat related news, Nick Franklin was scheduled to play right field yesterday, but was removed from the lineup in the morning due to having a sore throat.
TWINS 1, RAYS 0
HITTER OF THE GAME
Daniel Robertson, Rays: On a day where hits came at a premium, Robertson collected two singles in the loss to raise his spring average to .275. Since March 19, Robertson is 11 for 20 with at least one hit in each of his last six games played.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Chris Archer, Rays: In his final outing of the spring Archer continued to look sharp. It was just a tuneup appearance, so he tossed his scheduled three innings. He allowed just one hit and one walk in that span while striking out four batters.
Bottom 7th: The lone run of the game came off the bat of ByungHo Park. It was a solo shot to right-center field, and the wind helped it carry into the stands for the game-winner.
Austin Pruitt, Rays: Pruitt looked strong in two innings of work. His only blemish was the Park homer. Other than that, he tossed two innings and struck out a pair of batters.
THEY SAID IT
“Just how good his changeup was. I know it’s something new for him that he’s developed over the last couple of years. It’s really coming into its own. He threw it quite a bit today and had some good results with it.”
Rays catcher Derek Norris of if there’s something he learned about Archer that film couldn’t tell him.
BALTIMORE (16-12) at TAMPA BAY (11-16-3)
WHEN: Today, 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: Charlotte Sports Park, Port Charlotte
SCHEDULED STARTERS: RH Erasmo Ramirez vs. RH Kevin Gausman
RAYS: RH Erasmo Ramirez (start), LH Xavier Cedeno, RH Alex Colome, RH Jaime Schultz, RH Tommy Hunter, RH Jumbo Diaz.
ORIOLES: RH Kevin Gausman (start), relievers TBA
THURSDAY: vs. Minnesota, 1:05 p.m., FRIDAY: at Philadelphia, 1:05 p.m., SATURDAY: Off. SUNDAY: Opening Day vs. New York (AL), 1:10 p.m. MONDAY: Off.