DETROIT – Pitcher Daniel Norris has been cleared to rejoin the Detroit Tigers after he missed most of summer workouts due to a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test.
This comes as welcome news for a team that was scrambling to fill the final two spots in a once-solidified starting rotation. But with the regular season just three days away, it’s unclear if Norris will be ready in time to break camp on the Opening Day roster.
The 27-year-old left-hander revealed his positive COVID-19 test July 10 after he was absent from the team’s workouts at Comerica Park. He said he felt healthy and ready to play, but he couldn’t return to the team until he twice tested negative for the virus.
Norris was cleared to rejoin the 60-man player pool Tuesday, but the Tigers announced he would participate in a workout at Comerica Park. Detroit has a 6:10 p.m. exhibition game against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Other than Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Ivan Nova, the final two spots in the start rotation were a bit of a tossup after Norris and Jordan Zimmermann hit the injured list. Norris would obviously regain his previous role if he’s ready to go.
Norris had a decent 2019 season overall, but he really took off down the stretch when the team limited him to three innings per start in an attempt to control his workload.
In his final nine starts -- all exactly three innings in length -- Norris posted a 3.33 ERA, a .683 opponents’ OPS, a 1.00 WHIP, struck out a batter per inning and increased his swinging strike rate to an elite 14%.
Given his decreased time to build up to five or six innings this year, Norris could theoretically fill that same role for a similar amount of time during the shortened season.
He’s an interesting candidate for a piggyback combo, possibly paired with a long reliever such as Tyler Alexander or even Michael Fulmer.
Fulmer and Alexander figure to be the primary candidates for however many rotation spots are available -- one if Norris is ready to begin the season as a starter, and two if not.