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McClendon back as Tigers hitting coach

Lloyd McClendon is back as the Tigers’ hitting coach. The team announced Friday that Jim Leyland’s longtime assistant will reprise his old role under current skipper Brad Ausmus.

Meanwhile, Leon “Bull” Durham will get his long-awaited opportunity as a Major League coach. The longtime hitting coach at Triple-A Toledo is being promoted to serve as assistant hitting coach under McClendon.

The moves fill out the Tigers coaching staff for 2017. McClendon replaces Wally Joyner, who stepped down at season’s end to pursue other opportunities. Durham, meanwhile, replaces David Newhan, who spent the last two seasons as Joyner’s assistant. Newhan’s future is unclear, though he could stay in the organization in another role.

McClendon served as a coach on Leyland’s staff for all eight years of the former manager’s tenure, including as hitting coach from 2007 to 2013. He interviewed for the Tigers managerial opening after Leyland retired, then became manager of the Seattle Mariners once the Tigers hired Ausmus.

After two years in Seattle, McClendon returned to the Tigers organization this past season to manage in Toledo, guiding the Mud Hens to a 68-76 record. His familiarity with Tigers prospects there included outfielders JaCoby Jones, Tyler Collins and Steven Moya, along with shortstop Dixon Machado, all of whom spent time in Detroit this season.

McClendon joined the Tigers staff as an extra coach in September once the Hens season ended.

Add in McClendon’s previous relationship with Detroit’s veteran hitters, especially Miguel Cabrera, and the in-house hire made sense for an easy transition.

“Mac knows our personnel well and has worked with a number of current hitters, so we’re fortunate to have him as part of our staff,” Ausmus said in a statement. “Bull’s experience and familiarity with our Triple-A players is a plus for us, too.”

Virtually any position player that has come up through the Tigers system has worked with Durham, who served as hitting coach under five different Mud Hens managers from 2001 through 2016. The former Major League first baseman interview for big-league coaching jobs over the years, including in Seattle for McClendon three years ago, but never got his opportunity until now.

McClendon and Durham are the first coaches promoted to Detroit from the Tigers farm system under Ausmus. Detroit’s last internal promotion was Mike Rojas, whom Leyland called up from the Tigers’ player development department to work as his bullpen coach midway through the 2011 season once Jeff Jones became Tigers pitching coach.

The promotions mean the Tigers will be hiring a new manager and hitting coach in Toledo. Former Tigers great Lance Parrish is expected to remain as manager at Double-A Erie along with hitting coach Phil Clark, while Andrew Graham was promoted earlier this week from West Michigan to Class A Lakeland. Former Tigers catcher Mike Rabelo is taking over as West Michigan skipper after managing at short-season Class A Connecticut.

Tigers close to hiring hitting coach, and other notes

While Detroit debates the Tigers’ organizational direction, there were other odds and ends discussed at general manager Al Avila’s end-of-season media session:

First, the Tigers’ search for a new hitting coach could be concluded by the end of the week. Manager Brad Ausmus has talked to a few candidates, both inside and outside the organization, according to Avila.

“I feel that we’re coming close,” Avila said. “Hopefully by the end of the week, we’ll be able to announce this.”

Second, Avila said there are no offseason surgeries on the schedule for any players. You’ll recall that Miguel Cabrera planned on having his surgically repaired ankle checked out for any possible damage. That appears to have been resolved.

“These guys, after 162 games, what they need is basically rest,” Avila said, “then start the process again of rehab/strength and conditioning offseason program and get back at it. As far as any surgeries or anything like that, there aren’t any scheduled.”

Third, with no decision yet on Francisco Rodriguez’s contract option, the question came up about the club’s plans for Joe Jimenez going into next season. At this point, Avila said, they’re expecting him to compete for a job in Spring Training, but continue to exercise caution with his development.

In explaining their caution with Jimenez, Avila referenced Bruce Rondon and what they now view as rushing him too quickly to the big leagues in 2013.

“I know there was a big push for him to come up here [in September],” Avila said, “but trust me, that would not have been in his best interests — or our best interests. There were some things he needed to work on, in particular his slider, and just his command overall.

“There are certain things that you can do in the minor leagues that you can’t do at the big-league level. When we bring him up, we want to make sure that he’s coming up to have success. We don’t want to go through the same mistake we did with Bruce in the past where it just didn’t work out right away.  We want to be a little bit more cautious with Jimenez. In saying that, I’m hopeful that he can contribute to our success at some point in 2017. I can’t rule out that right out of the chute in Spring Training; you’ve got to give a guy an opportunity. But is it going to be a month, two months, three months in Toledo before he makes an impact? Obviously that’s into play, too.”

The Tigers are also hoping to give JaCoby Jones more time in Toledo, which might play a role in their decision on Cameron Maybin’s contract option.

“JaCoby Jones is a viable option,” Avila said. “I think there [are] people in the organization that feel that he could use more time in Toledo. I’m of the opinion that he could use more time in Toledo. But if he has a strong Arizona Fall League, comes into Spring Training and really has a good spring, I can’t rule out that he might not be the guy, particularly if you can match him up with another guy that hits from the left side and can give him some days off against some tough right-handed pitchers.”

Lastly, the one area where the Tigers might hit the free-agent market is for a backup catcher, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s contract up.

“We have to make a decision on who that other catcher is that we’re going to try to acquire to go along with [James] McCann,” Avila said. “Saltalamacchia obviously is under consideration, amongst a list of catchers we have identified.”

That list, Avila confirmed, includes former Tiger Alex Avila, also a free agent after playing out his one-year deal with the White Sox.

The era of big government [or big payroll] is over

Those TV fans who remember The West Wing might recall the headline above (well, ok, not the payroll part). It was the phrase that the President’s staff debated putting into or taking out of his State of the Union speech. Eventually, they changed course and took the phrase out of the speech.

As Tigers general manager Al Avila searched Tuesday for a term to describe the plan upon which the team is embarking, he didn’t come up with that phrase. But other terms came to mind.

“I can’t call it a rebuild, because we haven’t broken anything down,” Avila said. “So no, I’m not comfortable with the word rebuild. People can use rebuild and I don’t think it’s the right term. I’ve read retool; I don’t know if that’s the right term. I don’t know if there’s a term for what I want to do here. I really don’t. If you guys can come up with a slogan, let me know and we’ll go with it. In describing the process, you guys can probably name it however you want to name it.

“Hey, we want to get younger and we want to get leaner. We want to run the organization without having to go over the means of the organization. We want to run the organization more responsible or efficient. In all seriousness, you try to run the organization in the right manner and try to get the team more efficient. When I say efficient, you want to improve your baserunning and defense, you want to balance out that lineup a little bit better. But that’s a lot to do, and a lot of changes, so it’s not the kind of thing that you’re going to see happen overnight.

“It’s going to be a process and in some cases, it might seem painful. But it could be fruitful, too.”

If the plan is followed, it’s a change in the long-term vision of how the Tigers operate. The era of big — ok, huge — Tigers payrolls is over. It was fun while it lasted, watching the Tigers outbid big-market teams for a big-name player, but it was going to end sometime. When even teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have to watch what they’re spending, the Tigers weren’t going to put it off forever.

It’s the transition that was always going to be the hard part. The Tigers put it off for years, hoping to get a World Series title the old way first, but eventually it had to happen.

“That’s a tightrope that we have to walk,” Avila said. “We certainly want to stay competitive. We certainly want to be able to try to get back in the playoffs, But at the same time, this organization has been working way above its means as far as payroll for many, many years, and it [has] put us in a situation where quite frankly, it’s difficult to maneuver.

“It’s no secret obviously of the tax consequences that we’re going to have to pay, and if we continue that trend, it only gets worse and higher. So it would be foolish. And my opinion, my recommendation is that we don’t continue on that trend, because it would definitely be detrimental to this organization as we move forward. So in saying that, yes, we want to win, we want to be competitive, we want to try to get back into the playoffs. But at the same time, we have to see how that’s done. …

“I can’t say: ‘Here’s a plan of action, we’re going to go and get this guy.’ This year is going to be different. This year it’s we’re going to go out and talk to 29 other clubs and see how we can start, little by little, making this team leaner, younger, more efficient, and at the same time, staying competitive, trying to get to the playoffs, so that’s where the tightrope is that we’re walking on. Not the easiest thing in the world to do, obviously … but it has to be done. And it’s not a process where it’s going to be done in one winter.

“What we want to do ultimately may not be done between now and the Winter Meetings. It may not be done between now and the end of Spring Training. It may not be done between now and the next trading deadline. So it will be an ongoing process as we try to get better, but at the same time we try to make some changes that just make sense overall for this organization.”

This offseason’s trading market will determine in part how abrupt a transition this is for the Tigers, whether Avila makes a slew of deals this winter and remakes this team around a young core, or begins a slower process that sees much of this team intact for next year before several prominent players hit free agency next winter.

Here’s what it means for now:

  1. The Tigers are not going to be big players in the upcoming free-agent market, aside from six-year minor league free agents. “If there’s one thing I learned last year,” Avila said, “it’s that the best way to build a good foundation and organization for the long term is not through free agency, but it’s through drafting good players, developing those players, and bringing them up through the system — then, as needed, making some wise trades. … Then, every once in a blue moon, if you have to add a free-agent player to take you over the top, then that’s what you do. That’s really the essence of how to make things work in the long haul.”
  2. The Tigers will at least listen to most any idea on the trade market. “That doesn’t mean that we’re dangling Player A out there and seeing what happens,” Avila said, “but it does mean that in our conversations with other clubs, we will be open-minded, and if somebody has interest in a certain player, we’ll take a look at it. If it makes sense for the Detroit Tigers present and future, then we certainly will consider things that we feel will make us better.”
  3. Avila has not ruled out picking up contract options on Francisco Rodriguez or Cameron Maybin, though he could end up trading them (he didn’t say that, but you obviously get the idea). “We have until just after the World Series,” Avila said. “We will be making a decision obviously before then, and we’ll probably wait all the way to the final day [to announce]. But no, we have not made a decision yet.”
  4. A long-term extension for J.D. Martinez, who’s in line for free agency next winter, is not on the offseason to-do list. “I don’t foresee any talks of a long-term contract at this point,” Avila said. “In saying that, we’re going to keep any open mind in what possibilities come across this winter, this coming summer. I’m not going to rule [it] out … but sitting here today, we’re not thinking that way right now.”
  5. The Tigers will be looking to keep and develop the prospects they have, rather than dangle them in trade talks. “If you’re looking for trading those players for a young guy that’s going to be around for a long time, that’s already a proven commodity, maybe that’s a different story,” Avila said. “A guy that’s under control, going to be around for a long time, then that’s a different mindset. So you can’t say an absolute no. But the philosophy here, the main focus, is keep your main guys, the ones that you’re thinking are going to help you at the Major League level.”
  6. The analytics department that Avila began to build last year will continue to expand, including a software system the Tigers are calling Caesar that they hope to have operational in January. “It’s in its infancy, as analytics departments [go],” Avila said.

Ausmus, Avila go another year

The Tigers have Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Anibal Sanchez and others under contract for one more season. Now, they have Brad Ausmus for those terms as well.

After a couple days of offseason, the Tigers did what had been expected since midseason, picking up the club option on Ausmus’ contract. In explaining the move, Avila noted continuity as a factor. Though there had been some speculation that they might work on a new deal, general manager Al Avila said they preferred to go year to year, the same timetable Dave Dombrowski had with Jim Leyland for his final few seasons, though for different reasons.

In my opinion, I don’t think [a long-term deal] is necessary,” Avila said on a conference call Wednesday. “I personally like the year to year [approach] at this time. The club itself can change from year to year, and things could change from year to year. So I think for our organization, having those options are good for us, and actually I think it works for Brad.

“There are several managers in today’s game that work year to year, and there have been managers in the past who’ve worked year to year. I am comfortable with it. I’ve spoken with Brad about it and he’s comfortable with it. And at this point, there is no reason for me or for Brad to think different.”

They discussed that. They discussed the team. And they discussed what is to be done with the team on the heels of being the last team out of the postseason picture, having lost two of three in Atlanta and five of their last eight overall.

“In talking to Brad, I mentioned some of the things I’d like to improve on,” Avila said, “and it just so happened he and I were on the same page. When I say improve, I mean on the field. Obviously, we need to improve our defense in some areas. We have to improve certain things with our baserunning. It’s not for a lack of practice or instruction, but maybe there are some ideas about doing some things differently. It could also lead to changes in personnel. We also talked about our players going forward and what we need to do. Things of that nature is what we talk about.

“At the end, we’ve been on the same page all year. Whatever things we disagreed upon — and we have had disagreements on certain things — we can move forward and work through those things with no issue.”

Whether that means changes on the coaching staff remains to be seen. Most of the staff is expected to return. But Avila stopped short of saying all.

“We’re still in that process,” Avila said. “I guess you could take it as, we anticipate most of them coming back, but I don’t know if they all will at this point, because I haven’t talked to them. So I think that’s a question for maybe another day, not too far down the road.”

More from the conference call:

  • Avila on changing course after not making playoffs: “Sometimes it’s not just clear-cut wins and losses, [or] did you get into the postseason or not. There’s a lot of circumstances that you’ve got to take into account along the way. You’ve got to look at the big picture. It might be easy to say, ‘Let’s cut ties right now,’ just because we didn’t get into the postseason, and it creates bigger and worse problems down the road. Just cutting ties because you didn’t get into the postseason doesn’t make the team better, and it doesn’t mean that that’s the right decision. Sometimes you’ve got to continue and stay with the continuity that you have as long as you know that you’re making progress and you’re working to get better.
  • Avila on injuries: “Daniel Norris, who was supposed to be our fifth starter, broke his back basically in Spring Training, and we started our season without our fifth starter. Cameron Maybin, first day of Spring Training, he gets hit with a first at-bat and broke his hand, and we started without our center fielder. Right off the bat, we had two injuries that really we had no control over. If we have Cameron Maybin from Day 1, and Daniel Norris pitching in the rotation as expected, some things change. You can’t put that on anybody. However, in saying that, because of all these things that happened, you see how your manager handles them on a day-to-day basis, and he takes you through all the rough times and you’re still there at the end with a chance to get in. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.”
  • Avila on free-agent signings that didn’t work out: “I take all the blame. Because at the end of the day, I make those decisions, and you’ve got to put a lot of the blame on myself. So the guys that we brought in, let’s say they didn’t perform for whatever reason, that’s on me. Those are things that I’ve got to take the blame for. At the same time, you see what the manager did with those guys and how he used them, and he got through the season with them. That’s even more reason to say he did a good job in getting through those tough situations.”
  • Ausmus on what he has learned as a manager: “I’ve gotten that question the last few years. The one thing you start to realize is … a lot of players, especially players that have played a long time,  think they have a good grasp on the game. I was probably one of those players at the end of my career that had a good grasp. But after you manage for a few years, you start to understand that there are a lot of other factors that are not necessarily happening on the field, but are happening in the clubhouse or happen when you’re traveling, just minutiae that you have to deal with. And you start to understand and become a lot more comfortable with handling and making decisions on involving those things. That’s just basically what experience does, makes you more comfortable in those situations.”
  • Avila on continuity: “That is a big factor because he does know our players. We did discuss what things we may need to do this offseason. He fully understands that. That is a big factor in moving forward. Sometimes it seems like bringing in somebody else would be better just for the sake of change, but that’s not always the case. Continuity is part of it and familiarity with the players and the players with him is important.”
  • Avila on what might be done this offseason: “At this point, I’m not ready to discuss that. We have our year-end meetings with our Major League scouts and advisers next week. We’ll be meeting from Monday through Friday next week in Lakeland. When we come out of that, I’ll have more of an idea of where we’re going to be headed, and what we’ll be doing — or what we’ll be trying to do. I will say we’ll be open-minded to anything and everything out there. But right now, I’m not in a position to discuss payroll or anything of that nature at this point.”
  • Avila owner Mike Ilitch’s approval: “Yes, I did discuss it with Mr. Ilitch, and he gave me the ok to pick up the option. I explained to him my reasoning and he agreed and he said go ahead.”
  • Avila on Ilitch’s view on season: “Well, just like all of us, he wanted to get to the playoffs, to get to the World Series, and the goal is to do that. So he felt like all of us. Obviously, that’s what we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it. Now we’re regrouping.

    We feel we have a good core of young players. Really, we talked more about moving forward than the past. … Let me put it to you this way: You don’t just go there and hash over all the bad, all the games that you lost. What happened, happened. Nobody liked it. We didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. So now we got to regroup, move forward and see where we go from here.”

  • Ausmus on baserunning: “Baserunning’s a funny thing, because you can work on it all you want. We worked on it quite a bit in spring training, brought Kirk Gibson, and he helped us. You can work on it all you want, but ultimately the players have to react, use their instincts on the bases. It’s a split-second play, whether it’s a line drive, or it’s reading a ball to an outfielder. A split-second decision has to be made by that baserunner. You hope that all the work that you put in, all the practice you put in, bears fruit. But ultimately, it’s up to the baserunner. There are players that are very instinctive baserunners. They don’t need to practice it. They can read balls, and read players, and understand situations better than others. And sometimes guys aren’t very good instinctive baserunners. You can hope to try to make them better, but you’re not necessarily going to make them into the greatest baserunner on the planet. I don’t know that there’s a ton we can do differently, other than stress the things that we have stressed, and hope that they get better by practicing it.”

  • Ausmus on working relationship with Avila: “Al and I work very well together. We get along great. From what I hear, that isn’t always the case. So it’s nice to know I have someone I can talk to, not only on a business platform, but if I just want to talk about anything on a personal level, I can talk to Al. That’s a big part of it for me. If it was someone I couldn’t work with, I’d probably say don’t bring me back just for one year. But because of our relationship, that is a big part of it. The second part of it is because of the group of guys we have. Al is right. The veteran leadership is huge in a clubhouse. I’ve been there as a player. I’ve been the young guy that’s had veteran leadership and I’ve been in clubhouses without veteran leadership. And I’ve been a veteran leader. A clubhouse runs much smoother with good veteran leadership. It’s a big asset to any manager. Those two things, and we still are in a position to put a winning product on the field, is why I said I’d be happy to come back and manage this team.”

Cabrera will have right ankle examined

In case you missed it, here’s my piece from earlier today on Miguel Cabrera, who talked a little bit after Sunday’s loss about the season — his and that of the Tigers — as well as the disappointment of the present and outlook on the future. With that came the annual question of injuries he played through but hobbled, a topic he’s usually more open to discuss once the season ends. Not surprisingly, the right ankle came up. That’s the same ankle that required surgery a couple years ago for bone spurs.

“The last month and a half,” Cabrera said when asked how long it had been an issue.

Cabrera said he’s going to have the ankle examined again in the next week or so, to make sure there’s no damage or anything similar to two years ago.

“I have to check my ankle again,” he said, “to see if there’s something wrong.”

You might remember Brad Ausmus giving Cabrera a day off at the end of August because the ankle flared up, noting it bothers him from time to time. Cabrera started in each of the Tigers’ final 28 games from there, and played aggressively, running the bases opportunistically and chasing after balls on defense. Cabrera acknowledged along the way that sliding jams his ankle, noting it’s difficult to play that way on the basepaths every game.

Still, he played, and he hit in spite of injury, much like past late-season runs. Cabrera batted .349 (37-for-106) with 10 home runs, 27 RBIs, 16 walks and a 1.109 OPS from Sept. 2 to season’s end. His final week included a stretch of 10 hits in 11 at-bats, four of them home runs, and 13 RBIs. He finished the season on a 10-game hitting streak. For that, he won AL Player of the Week and Player of the Month.

“It was hard,” he said, “but you know me. I want to play.”


Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Braves

With their season on the line, Tigers go with their regulars, which is what you’d expect, especially with Julio Teheran pitching. This is the team they have. This is the task they face.

“Our lineup isn’t the type of lineup you do a ton with,” Ausmus said Sunday morning. “I mean, we’ve got a bunch of hitters. Maybe Iglesias, maybe Cameron Maybin. Other than that, we slug. That’s just how it is. We hit and we slug and we have our best pitcher on the mound. And I’m going to trust Justin Verlander as much as I trust everybody else in a Tiger uniform. So, just go out and play.”

The Tigers don’t have a lot of regular season at-bats against Teheran, but they’ve seen a bunch of him in Spring Training over the years. So unlike Aaron Blair, they should have a better idea how his pitches move.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio


  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Cameron Maybin, CF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Justin Upton, LF (1-for-4, HR, walk vs. Teheran)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Justin Verlander, P

braveslogoBRAVES (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Ender Inciarte, CF (1-for-1)
  2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Matt Kemp, LF (2-for-3, K)
  5. Nick Markakis, RF (13-for-51, 4 doubles, triple, HR, 5 walks, 10 K’s)
  6. Tyler Flowers, C (4-for-21, double, 2 HR, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
  7. Jace Peterson, 2B
  8. Dansby Swanson, SS
  9. Julio Teheran, P


Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Braves

Jarrod Saltalamacchia replaces James McCann tonight, getting a start behind the plate where his career began in 2007.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

84tigerslogoTIGERS (no numbers against Aaron Blair)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Cameron Maybin, CF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Justin Upton, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Jordan Zimmermann, P

atlantalogoBRAVES (career numbers vs. Zimmermann)

  1. Ender Inciarte, CF (0-for-5, walk)
  2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B (9-for-25, 3 doubles, 6 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Matt Kemp, LF (6-for-16, double, 2 HR, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Nick Markakis, RF
  6. Anthony Recker, C (2-for-8, double, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. Jace Peterson, 2B (5-for-18, 4 K’s)
  8. Dansby Swanson, SS
  9. Aaron Blair, P


Norris dazzles in clutch performance at old home park

Daniel Norris grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. He became famous for traveling the country in his van in his offseasons. But he spent an important part of his childhood at Turner Field.

“In high school, I’d play summer ball here,” Norris said. “We’d have games at 11 or 1, and we would pack up and carpool to the game. We’d get in for like a buck in the upper deck and sneak down and watch games. It was pretty cool.”

This was where Norris’ Major League dreams were formed. On Friday, with his dreams of playoff baseball closer than ever, this is where Norris looked like a kid again — in a good way.

“Everything was so surreal just being out there and envisioning Chipper in the box, stuff like that,” he said. “That was cool.”

He was effectively wild early on his mound, then dominant late. He was hacking at the plate, nearly drawing a bases-loaded walk and nearly beating out a ground ball. He was hustling in the field, nearly injuring his glove hand trying to backhand a hard-hit comebacker, then later recovering to catch a popup after a miscommunication with Miguel Cabrera.

“He only knows one speed,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

But all in all, he played with urgency, showing the enthusiasm of a young pitcher with a chance to get to the postseason – and a potential matchup with his old team, the Blue Jays.

“That was on my mind the past few days leading up,” Norris said. “I was really excited to get out here and help the team win.”

Norris was able to settle down a tick before he threw his first pitch, thanks to a 3-0 lead. But he still had to corral his pitching. He worked out of jams in the second and third innings, stranding runners at first and second, and lost a couple hitters from 0-2 counts to walks with two outs before surviving on well-struck fly outs.

Once he settled in, though, his own command was a tougher opponent for him than the Braves. Adonis Garcia’s aforementioned deflected comebacker was the only hit Norris allowed in a 17-batter span from Matt Wisler’s third-inning single to Brandon Snyder’s home run on Norris’ 114th and final pitch with two outs in the seventh.

The key was a mix of rising fastballs and sliders. His heater averaged 95.5 mph, according to, his highest average fastball in his big-league career. He threw 79 of them, 60 for strikes, 47 of them garnering swings, 13 of them for swings and misses compared with 14 put in play. Time and again, the fastball sent hitters up and out of their strike zone.

“It was when I stopped trying to force it,” Norris said. “The second and third inning, I was trying to do too much with it, and then I talked with [pitching coach Rich] Dubee and he was like, ‘Hey, you’ve just got to relax and let it happen free and easy.’ Immediately that helped me click back and start using it more effectively.”

Mixed with that was a slider that was moving out of the zone and getting hitters to go with it. He threw 19 of them, more than his changeup and curveball combined. He threw 10 for strikes, nine of them drawing swings and four of them misses.

He threw well enough that Ausmus let him step on deck in the seventh inning if the ninth spot in the order came up, giving him the green light to try to go seven innings despite all that energy he spent at the plate and on the bases.

“He was going to drag bunt,” Ausmus said. “I said, ‘Don’t drag bunt, because then you’ll run hard again.'”

Still, for someone who threw a 54-pitch first inning in one of his final starts of 2015, getting as far as he did was a relative breakthough, even though he had gone seven innings last season. His 114 pitches tied Anibal Sanchez for the most in a game by a Tigers starter not named Verlander. With only one run, he lowered his ERA to 3.38 for the season, allowing 75 hits over 69 1/3 innings with 71 strikeouts. He went 2-0 with a 2.73 ERA over five starts in September, including 38 strikeouts over 29 2/3 innings.

Norris went into Spring Training eight months ago hoping to fight for a rotation spot. He ends the season as the third starter in the Tigers rotation behind Verlander and fellow youngster Michael Fulmer. Even if Norris doesn’t get to pitch in the postseason, he’s a major reason the Tigers have the makings of a formidable young rotation behind Verlander in 2017.

“He’s grown quite a bit,” Ausmus said. “He’s starting to learn how to control his emotions and concentrate on his pitching. He’s gotten deep into games now, and it’s nice to see.”

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Braves

The last time Daniel Norris batted, he hit his famous home run at Wrigley Field last year before leaving with an oblique strain. He has not taken batting practice recently (the Tigers couldn’t even take batting practice outside the last couple days thanks to all the rain in Detroit), and he made it clear a couple days ago that he’ll be focusing his efforts on the mound rather than at the plate. So it remains to be seen whether he’ll have the green light to swing or if he’ll simply be bunting or taking pitches. Meanwhile, Victor Martinez resumes his second job as situational pinch-hitter.

The only two Tigers who have faced Braves starter Matt Wisler are Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann, with three plate appearances combined (and no hits).

Reminder: This is a 7:35pm ET game, not 7:05, or 7:10, or even 7:08.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio


  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Cameron Maybin, CF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Justin Upton, LF (0-for-2, walk off Matt Wisler)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Daniel Norris, P

braveshatchetlogoBRAVES (career numbers against Norris)

  1. Ender Inciarte, CF
  2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B (1-for-1, double, walk)
  4. Matt Kemp, LF
  5. Nick Markakis, RF (1-for-3)
  6. Tyler Flowers, C (0-for-1)
  7. Dansby Swanson, SS
  8. Daniel Castro, 2B
  9. Matt Wisler, P


Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

The Tigers lineup is back at full strength. Nick Castellanos returns to the lineup at third base, his first start since Aug. 6. He’s in the seventh spot behind Justin Upton, stretching out the productive part of the Tigers batting order if his timing is right at the plate. The lineup below is being used for just the 11th time this season, according to, and the first time since June 11. It’s still the most common of the 97 different lineup combinations the Tigers have used this season.

The Indians come back from their hangover game with much of their lineup back in action except for Mike Napoli, who gets a second consecutive day off.

Of course, everyone could be getting a day off if the weather is bad enough tonight. There’s a massive line of rain in Ohio right now that’s trying to rotate counterclockwise, with Detroit right in the path. If it makes that turn, it’s going to be a long night or a doubleheader tomorrow. At this time of year, especially with postseason implications, Major League Baseball is in charge of postponements. With rain in the forecast tomorrow, both teams traveling tomorrow night and Monday reserved for a potential tiebreaker (which the Tigers could easily be involved in playing), MLB would much rather get this in tonight.

Gameday | TV: ESPN, FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, MLB Gameday Audio

tigers1957logoTIGERS (career numbers off Zach McAllister)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-18, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  2. Cameron Maybin, CF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-25, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (11-for-24, 4 doubles, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-10, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  6. Justin Upton, LF (1-for-3)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (7-for-14, 2 doubles, HR, 3 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C (0-for-2, walk, K)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-5, double)

P: Michael Fulmer

clevelandlogo2INDIANS (numbers against Fulmer)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Francisco Lindor, SS (3-for-8, double, 2 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-8, double, walk, K)
  5. Jose Ramirez, 3B (1-for-4, double, 2 walks)
  6. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF (0-for-4, K)
  7. Coco Crisp, DH (1-for-7, double, K)
  8. Tyler Naquin, CF (2-for-4)
  9. Roberto Perez, C (0-for-1)

P: Zach McAllister