Bud Norris shared a 30-minute car ride and a lunch with former Atlanta Braves star John Smoltz at a golf tournament over the off-season.
Much of their conversation focused on the transition from starting pitcher to short reliever, a subject Norris wouldn't have broached six or seven years ago with anyone, let alone a right-hander who was so dominant in both roles he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
"Early in my career, I never wanted to go to the bullpen," said Norris, who retired the side in order in the fourth inning before giving up three runs in the fifth inning of Saturday's game against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. "I took it more as a demotion."
Norris, three years removed from a 2014 season in which he was 15-8 with a 3.65 earned-run average in 28 starts for Baltimore, is attempting to revitalize his career with the Angels after signing a minor league deal in January.
With potential closer Huston Street (strained back muscle) likely to open the season on the disabled list and the Angels thin on short relievers, Norris' best path might be the bullpen, a role he is embracing after making 36 relief appearances for the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves and Dodgers in the last two seasons.
"They want me to compete for a rotation spot, but I am completely open to doing back-end bullpen stuff," Norris, 32, said. "I enjoyed it, and there is a need there."
Manager Mike Scioscia said Norris' fastball, which has averaged 93.0 mph over his eight-year career, "had more life" out of the bullpen. Norris said he relies more on his fastball, slider and cut-fastball and less on his changeup while pitching in relief.
"I feel I can be ready to be a one-inning guy, if that's what they need me to be," Norris said. "It's something they'll have to decide in the next couple of weeks."
If Norris moves to the bullpen, he plans to incorporate the suggestions of Smoltz, who made the switch after sitting out the 2000 season because of elbow ligament-replacement surgery and notched 154 saves in 3 1/2 seasons from 2001 to 2004.
"He said to take care of your body, to do more workout stuff after games instead of before games, to taper back on your pregame throwing to save some bullets," Norris said. "I have power stuff. As far as my pitches, I think everything plays down there."
Matt Shoemaker planned to reach out to Toronto left-hander T.J. House on Saturday as a show of support for the reliever who was struck in the head by a line drive Friday.
Shoemaker underwent emergency brain surgery in September after being struck in the head by a 105-mph line drive off the bat of Seattle's Kyle Seager. House was taken off the field in an ambulance but was released from a hospital Saturday and is expected to make a full recovery.
"Hopefully, everything is OK," Shoemaker said. "In my instance, the first three hours, everything was looking good. Then, all of a sudden, we go into surgery."
Shoemaker said he was comforted after his injury by phone calls that the wives of pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Evan Marshall and J.A. Happ, who were struck in the head by line drives, made to his wife, Danielle.
"I couldn't take a bunch of calls in the hospital," Shoemaker said, "but they reached out to me through Danielle."
The legend grows
Mike Trout had a new nickname Saturday.
"Hey Ace," television broadcaster Mark Gubicza said as the center fielder took the field for workouts, a reference to the hole in one Trout notched on the 127-yard second hole at the Raven Golf Club in Phoenix on Friday.
Trout, 25, is considered the best all-around player in baseball, with two American League most-valuable-player awards and three second-place MVP finishes in five seasons.
Asked if there was anything Trout can't do, Scioscia said, "I don't know man … he's dunked a basketball, he has a hole in one, he can probably run a pretty good stop-and-go [route] as a wideout or tight end. We're happy he's playing center field for us."
Has Scioscia ever made a hole in one?
"I don't think I ever had one in miniature golf," he said. "I'd rattle around that windmill."