Surprising Norberto Earns Big League Spot





PHOENIX—Top talent evaluator Junior Naboa arrived at Diamondbacks' spring training with two words: Jordan Norberto. Naboa knew what he had, and so, now, do the Diamondbacks.

Norberto, 23, had spent only a half season above the Double-A level entering his first major league camp, but he made the Opening Day roster based on more relevant numbers—a fastball that sits in the 93-96 mph range, a 1.04 spring ERA and one hit allowed in nine appearances.

"Jordan elbowed his way right into opportunity," manager A.J. Hinch said. "We knew what we had in him, but for him to make this team is a great accomplishment. When the door cracked open a little bit, he came and took it."

Norberto, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, earned the final spot in an eight-man bullpen as the only lefthander when Arizona optioned lefty Clay Zavada to Triple-A Reno after he gave up 10 hits and nine walks in nine spring innings.

The turning point in Norberto's career, however, came 18 months earlier, when the Diamondbacks converted him from a starter to a reliever at low Class A South Bend.

After moving to the bullpen, the 6-foot, 195 pound Norberto added another 6 mph to his fastball. He complements it with a hard slurve that has some depth. He also has a changeup that he uses occasionally to get back into counts.

"It was a big decision at the time, and it panned out," said Arizona pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who was the organization's pitching coordinator when the move was made. "The difference I've seen this year is that when he falls behind hitters, he makes a pitch and gets out of an at-bat. That shows some maturity on his part.

"He is creating sequences, moving the ball in and out, up and down. When pitchers finally find themselves, whether it is delivery or confidence or maturity, they seem to take off. I think this is the case. He has a special arm. He has special stuff. He's a different man now. He has a sense of calmness."

Snake Bites

• Norberto made two appearances in Arizona's season-opening series with the Padres. He retired all three hitters he faced with his fastball topping out at 95 mph.

• Outfielder A.J. Pollock, the Diamondbacks' second first-round pick in 2009, is expected to miss two to three months after suffering a fractured growth plate in his right elbow, general manager Josh Byrnes said on March 27, the day after Pollock underwent what was termed successful surgery.