Daniel Norris Shares Big Day With Sister
TORONTO — David and Sandra Norris weren't able to make it to Fenway Park to watch their son Daniel pitch in his major league debut.
They had previous plans they simply couldn't break.
"My sister (Melanie) got married the same day, so they were at the wedding in North Carolina," Daniel explained after catching fly balls during batting practice at Rogers Centre this week.
Though his parents weren't physically in Boston last Friday as the Blue Jays' 2011 second round draft pick walked to the mound from the visitor's bullpen to face David Ortiz — with a runner on second, two out and a one-run lead, no less — they were able to sneak away from the festivities temporarily to hear Norris strike out the left-handed slugger on the radio.
And when he got back to the locker-room, Norris had a surprise waiting for him on his cell phone.
"They sent me a picture of them all huddled around the radio listening to the game in the car," Norris said with a smile. "The wedding was in the mountains and they had a camp-out afterwards, so there wasn't really a television nearby."
The 21-year-old southpaw started the season in single-A Dunedin, quickly working his way up the organizational ladder to earn a September call-up and a spot on the 40-man roster.
He's appeared in two games for the big league club so far, giving up one hit, one walk and striking out two in 1 1/3 innings.
Tuesday's contest — a 9-2 win against the Cubs — was Norris' Rogers Centre debut, and the small crowd of just over 17,000 rose to its feet as the Tennessee native struck out Luis Valbuena for the final out of the game.
Afterwards, Norris posted a photo on instagram of himself on the mound, with fans in the background giving him a standing ovation.
"Thank you all for the warm welcome home," the caption reads.
Prior to the game, Norris talked about how it felt to walk into the Blue Jays clubhouse in Toronto for the first time on Monday and see his name printed in blue block letters above his locker.
"It was such an unbelievable feeling," he said. "This is what you dream about, it's what you work hard for your whole life. And to have it right there in front of your face, it makes you never want to leave."
While Norris is thrilled to be in the big leagues with Toronto, a city he described as "cool, beautiful, and very clean," the family-oriented pitcher admits that it was tough to have to miss his sister's wedding.
"It was the biggest day of both of our lives, so it was kind of unfortunate we couldn't be there for each other," he said.
"But it was a happy day for the whole family, so it was kind of cool to have them coincide like that."
BLUE JAYS NEWS AND NOTES
[A-Sanchez-Jays] Toronto manager John Gibbons knows Aaron Sanchez has a pretty good chance of cracking the Blue Jays starting rotation next year.
But that doesn't mean the rookie's time in the bullpen this season hasn't helped with his development.
"I think the whole thing is he's getting familiar with the big leagues, he's facing guys he's going to face, he's really getting the tough part out of the way, all the firsts," Gibbons said of the 22-year-old right-hander. "The more you're out there, the better you're going to be.
"It's a different approach for him coming out of the pen than he'd have as a starter — as a starter he'll start mixing in his other pitches — but I think he's been very valuable to us."
Sanchez is 2-1 with two saves, a 1.40 ERA, 0.623 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 through 25 2/3 innings pitched.
"He's gaining confidence," Gibbons said of the biggest thing Sanchez is learning through his work as a reliever. "He's saying, 'hey, I can pitch up here.'"
CANADIANS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES
[MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game] Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) had to wait 10 days for his first major league at-bat.
But once he got it, he made the most of it.
Pompey, who was called up from triple-A Buffalo once rosters expanded on Sept. 1, grounded out in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game against the Cubs at Rogers Centre, but cashed in Anthony Gose in the process for his first major league RBI.
The 21-year-old had appeared in four games as a pinch runner for the big league team prior to his first career at-bat Wednesday.
With his debut (Sept. 2 versus the Tampa Bay Rays), Pompey became the 19th Canadian to play for Toronto. And with his RBI, the former Oakville Royal became just the second Canadian to plate a run for the Jays in his first at-bat (the other was Brett Lawrie).
Pompey, like Norris, began the year in single-A Dunedin and worked his way up the rankings to earn himself a September call-up. He hit .317 with a .392 on-base percentage and 43 stolen bases through 113 minor league games split between three levels this season.
[Russell-Martin2] Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters earlier this week that Canadian catcher Russell Martin is just as important to the team as last year's National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.
"He has the ability to make every pitcher feel like he's got the opportunity to be the best he's ever been that day he's on the mound with Russell behind the plate," Hurdle said. "He brings an edge to the clubhouse."
Martin, who was born in East York, Ont., but grew up in Montreal, has eight hits in his last seven games, with three multi-hit contests during that span.
The Pirates opened play on Wednesday with a 1 1/2 game lead on Atlanta and Milwaukee for the second NL wild card spot.
— Follow Melissa Couto on twitter @throwinsmoke