Things haven't gone real smoothly for Daniel Norris since the Blue Jays made him a second-round pick in the 2011 Draft.
The Johnson City, Tenn., high school product debuted with Rookie-level Bluefield last year, notching a 7.97 ERA in 35 innings. In two appearances with Class A Short-Season Vancouver, he had a 10.57 ERA. And through his first seven appearances this season, the 6-foot-2 lefty sported a 10.07 ERA.
Over the last three outings, though, it looks like something might have started clicking for Toronto's No. 3 prospect.
Norris struck out a career-high 10 in four innings of work Thursday, scattering three hits and two walks over four scoreless innings as Class A Lansing took care of Lake County, 6-1.
"Being able to put guys away shows you still got the stuff to get guys out. It's just about kind of keeping on a roll, getting ahead of them and putting them away," Norris said of his outing. "The strikeouts, they were fun tonight. I had a lot of fun out there. The main thing was just relaxing, playing the game."
Norris credited that more relaxed mind-set for the turnaround he's seen over his past three starts, dating back to May 13. In those outings, he's tossed 12 innings while allowing just one run (an 0.75 ERA), bringing down his season ERA to 6.82.
He's also struck out 22 batters while walking eight in those 12 frames.
"I think I credit a lot of it to Vince Horsman, our pitching coach. He's been extremely patient with me, with my mechanics. We work hard every single day," Norris said. "I feel really good about the work I've been putting in. The last few outings I went out with the mentality of, 'I'm gonna get guys out.'
"Vince and I had a talk and he basically said, 'Enough is enough. Your stuff is too good to be giving up the hits and runs you're giving up, you've gotta trust your stuff.' And it hit home. I was sick of the results I was getting. He said, 'Don't think about your mechanics, just go out and throw and have fun.' I've done that and it's actually helped make my mechanics better."
Norris was a highly touted prep arm coming into the Draft in 2011, and he works with a fastball, a changeup, a slider and a curve while being able to dial up his speed into the mid-90s. He added that he's found it more productive to work on mechanical problems and analyze things in between starts and then clear his head when he actually takes the mound for a game.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity with the Blue Jays, for the faith they have had in me. That's what makes me breathe a little easy," Norris said. "At the beginning of the season and last year, it's tough, I'm not producing the way they thought I would and I wanna do good for them, prove them right. It's nice to think that maybe hopefully I can make them smile a little bit with the last few outings.
"I'm happy, but I'm certainly not satisfied. I've got the rest of the season to continue getting better. I understand there will be other ups and downs still to come, but I think, between last year and the early part of this year, facing adversity has helped me. If you put in the work, good things are gonna happen, that's the main thing for me."
First baseman Kevin Patterson supplied most of the offense for the Lugnuts, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer. Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. added a pair of RBIs.