Norris tops Baseball America list

 * LHP Daniel Norris is now No. 1 on Baseball America's Blue Jays prospect list. (Photo: Eddie Michels). .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

MINNEAPOLIS -- Baseball America released its new organizational top 10 list of prospects on Sunday.

“So Daniel Norris, were do you think you rank?” the Blue Jays lefty from double-A New Hampshire was asked Sunday morning in the Team USA clubhouse at Target Field.

Aaron Sanchez has been No. 1 all year and Dalton Pompey has been having a heck of a year. Hopefully I fall in behind those two players somewhere,” said Norris.

Norris, according to the highly-respected Baseball America, is now No. 1 with a bullet in the Jays' system.

A year ago, Norris was 2-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 23 starts at class-A Lansing (including one at Dunedin) walking 46 and striking out 100 in 90 2/3 innings.

This season, Norris is 7-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 17 starts -- 13 at Dunedin and four at double-A New Hampshire -- walking 26 and fanning 101.

His best outing of the season was June 24 when he pitched 5 2/3 scoreless, walking one and striking out 10 in an 18-0 romp over the Portland Sea Dogs.

The 6-foot-2 Norris, 21, worked the second inning against the World Team Sunday needing only 11 pitches to retire:

Kennys Vargas from double-A New Britain (.291 average, 15 homers, 58 RBIs, .845 OPS in the Minnesota Twins system) on a grounder to first with Norris covering.

Steven Moya from double-A Erie (.265, 22, 75, .835, Detroit Tigers) on a routine ground ball to short.

Daniel Alvarez of double-A Bowie (.309, 14, 68, .819, Baltimore Orioles), whom he struck out.

The biggest difference for Norris’ improvement and rapid rise isn’t a new trick pitch or words of encouragement from pitching coach Darold Knowles or Jim Czajkowski (although there have been plenty) or his managers Omar Malave and Bobby Meacham.

No, in Norris’ case, he gives credit to the Jays' strength coaches. It’s almost as if he’s been monitoring the call-in shows who blame the strength coaches for Brett Lawrie breaking his finger when hit by a Johnny Cueto pitch or Adam Lind for fouling a ball off his foot.

“I always worked out, I always wanted to work out, but those guys taught me how to work out properly,” said Norris, giving praise to strength and conditioning co-ordinator Donovan Santos and Jason Dowse.

“Jason made a big difference. I had him in Lansing last year and he was in Dunedin this season. He got me into it ... and I mean into it.”

Dowse, from Cannington, Ont., supervised Norris' between-game routine for 22 starts last year and 13 this season.

The routine from the day after he starts (kids, don’t try this at home) consists of:

1. Heavy lower body lift: three reps of eight of 225 lbs.

2. A 30-pitch bullpen and an upper body lift.

3. Light lower body lift: three reps of 10 at 50 lbs.

4. Mobility and stretching work, “but I don’t want to be too tired for the next day and my start.”

5. And then he goes out and throws his prescribed 85 pitches, although he hopes to increase the limit soon.

“Then just start over again,” said Norris. “I can feel the difference in my mobility, my legs are much looser.”

Norris has concentrated on better nutrition this season as well. The only food group he misses? Pizza ... “with pepperoni and pineapple.”

“Coming here has been eye opening,” said Norris of the trip from Manchester, N.H. to the Twin Cities.

His mother Sandra and father Daniel also made the trip from their home in Johnson City, Tenn.

Norris grew up a fan of Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves.

“He’d go into Shea Stadium and those Mets fans would be chanting “Larry, Larry, Larry,” said Norris of Jones' real first name. “And he’d get 0-2 and still hit line drives.”

Jones, who had so much success in the city so big that they named it twice, named one of his children Shea.

Now that Jones has retired, Norris’ favorite player is Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw.

And Norris is Baseball America’s fave. For now.