There is Bud Norris, lifetime starting pitcher. Bud Norris, nonroster invitee pegged for long-inning relief. And now, at age 32, Bud Norris the unexpected closer.
It’s a curious turnaround for someone who mostly started for the Dodgers last season, going 3-3 but with a less than sterling 6.54 ERA and 1.62 walks plus hits per inning pitched.
The Angels took a flier on the right-hander before spring training opened, and he is delivering in ways they never could have imagined.
Injuries kept sidelining would-be closers until the role unexpectedly fell Norris’ way. In four recent save opportunities, he has cashed in each time — including his close in a 2-1 victory over Oakland on Thursday night — looking more comfortable every time.
“I think he’s becoming acclimated to it,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “Starting off the season, we were really looking to see if he was going to give us multi-innings … to now really being shortened into a late-inning guy. I think he’s wrapping his arms around it. His stuff has really held up well.”
Norris had appeared in 239 major league games (185 starts) before earning his first career save Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays. In those four save opportunities, he did not allow a run, giving up two walks, two hits and striking out five.
Scioscia figures that when Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Bailey return from injuries, the evolution of Norris will only help the Angels’ late-inning depth.
“He’s already stepped into a late-inning role and doing a good job. That won’t be an issue when we get Bedrosian back and Bailey back, and the guys we’re looking for to help us hold leads. But we need that depth.”
Bedrosian (right groin strain) has yet to start throwing, though Scioscia said he is showing good improvement.
“Hopefully, it won’t be too far before he’s off the mound throwing a ’pen,” Scioscia said. “He’s making a lot of progress.”
Bailey (shoulder inflammation) is throwing from 100 feet. He could be throwing from a mound soon. Mike Morin (neck tightness) is expected to begin throwing in a few days and Huston Street (lat strain) is already throwing off a mound.
Scioscia said infielder Luis Valbuena (right hamstring strain) could finish his rehab assignment and join the Angels by Tuesday. … The Angels left after Thursday’s game to fly to Texas, where they were expecting to reach their hotel around 5 a.m. … Yunel Escobar is the latest Angel to struggle at the plate. He entered Thursday with one hit in his last 25 at-bats and finished the night one for four. Scioscia said he had no plans to move him from the leadoff spot.