SARASOTA, Fla. _ When all is said done there is only one thing that matters when it comes to Daniel Norris.
It does not matter that he lives in a van down by the river or down by the Wal-Mart.
No one will care how charming it is that he drives around in a 1978 Volkwagen camper and even has a name for it.
Or that he hopes to some day go rock climbing in Oregon, or surfing or whatever.
To Blue Jays decision makers and Blue Jays fans, it only matters if he can get people out.
Well, so far ... so good.
In his first start of the spring as he tries to win a starting rotation spot, Norris worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings allowing two base runners facing basically the Baltimore Orioles opening day Friday night at Ed Smith Stadium.
With Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, assistant GM Tony LaCava, pro scouting director Perry Minasian and of course manager John Gibbons watching, Norris threw 36 pitches in his first outing, 22 for strikes. He was 92-94 miles per hour on the scoreboard radar gun.
“I liked the fact I was facing a good lineup, you have to bring your A game” Norris told reporters after his outing.
ESPN The Magazine penned a feature story on Norris, his much-publicized van and his life time goals entitled The Man in the Van with the sub head The Most Interesting Man in Baseball.
“I thought they had the wrong guy,” said Norris, when asked what he thought of the headline. “I’m not a huge fan of all that, but I guess it’s inevitable.”
Manny Machado blooped a lead-off single to left and after J.J. Hardy flied to left, Norris walked Adam Jones, on what looked like strike three.
“I got behind some guys, got ahead of others, I fell behind Jones 2-0 throwing cut fastballs and threw another and he fouled off,” said Norris, who said he focussed on keeping his front side closed. “I told Pete (Walker, pitching coach) that was a good pitch.”
Two on, one out ... and zero problem.
With all of 6 2/3 innings on his major-league resume, Norris struck out Delmon Young and Chris Davis. The two have combined for 263 homers in 6,488 at-bats.
Young went down on a big-time breaking ball, as Norris threw some “strikeout” breaking balls.
In the second Norris retired Matt Wieters and Steve Pearce on grounders.
“I struggled a little with it (staying closed) in the first, but was much better in the second inning,” said Norris, 21, who was drafted in 2011. “Years back in spring training I can remember my stuff not doing much.”
He said he was pleased that he didn’t have any pain from his left elbow.
His one major-league start was Sept. 25 ... 30 days after his final start at triple-A Buffalo. Norris allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings getting a no decision in 7-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
“Looking back, I’m really thankful for being those 28 days in September,” said Norris, who made four relief appearances in addition to his start against Seattle.
Right-hander Marco Estrada, who was obtained from the Milwaukee Brewers for Jays DH/medical critic Adam Lind after averaging more than 20 starts the last three season, or Norris would have to pitch well enough to win a starter’s job, if the Jays decide to move Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen.
They opened camp with Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup leading in lifetime saves with six apiece.
The Jays are likely better with Sanchez in the bullpen, the way Pat Hentgen and Jimmy Key broke into the majors.
Yet, there the dominoes must fall the right way and Norris must continue to pitch well before Jays vice-president Stephen Brooks calling a meeting to tell the marketing troops to night with ticket price the same as 1978 at Exhibition Stadium for anyone driving a 1978 Volkwagen camper.
Maybe even lefty Jerry Garvin can be found to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The more you read and hear about the lefty, the more he reminds you of Bill Lee.
Except for the velocity.