Norberto Still Hopes To Start For A's

OAKLAND—The dream for Jordan Norberto remains that he will someday become a big league starting pitcher. The problem is that he has been pitching so darned well in relief that he may not get that chance.

The 6-foot, 195-pound lefthander was 4-1, 2.77 with a 1.13 WHIP in 39 relief appearances for Oakland. He had also shown the durability to pitch long and short relief, or to get out that one big lefthanded hitter in a tight situation. He has been so valuable in relief that the Athletics prefer him relieving to starting.

"I think he's great in the bullpen for us right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "The potential is there for that (starting), but we like what we're seeing out of the bullpen right now."

Norberto, 25, came to the A's in a trade with the Diamondbacks last season with great stuff and little command of the strike zone. He spent the winter pitching for Escogido in the Dominican Republic, getting six starts among his 16 appearances as he went 2-0, 2.45. He also improved both his slider and changeup.

"I worked really hard in the offseason," Norberto said. "When I went down there to winter ball, I tried to work on my fastball command. I asked if I could be a starter, and they told me I can. That gave me the opportunity to work more on hitters, to face righties and lefties. That helped a lot.

"It's partly that, and I got more confidence this year, too. That's all. When you've got confidence, everything comes better."

A's pitching coach Curt Young sees that confidence had made a difference. "You have some success here, you get a feeling of comfort if you do it every time. I think that's the case for him. He's been good in any situation we've put him in."

He is flamboyant in both style and appearance, wearing a mighty mohawk and a big beard. Off the field, he is cordial and accommodating. Norberto grew up in the Dominican in what he describe as a "hard-working family," that was neither poor nor rich. Much of his family has migrated to the U.S., with his mother now residing in North Carolina. Norberto likes to visit her so he can partake in the state's fishing and camping opportunities.

He signed with the D-backs in 2004 and worked his way up through the organization, mostly as a starter before moving to the bullpen in '09. He got a taste of the majors with Arizona in '10 when he pitched 20 relief innings and had a 5.85 ERA, before the trade to Oakland as part of the Brad Ziegler deal. He had only a brief trial with the A's, walking seven in 6 2/3 innings before the winter of his confidence-building back home in the Dominican.

Now Norberto seems to be headed to a big future, whether he remains in the pen or moves to the rotation.

A's Acorns

• Righthander Nolan Sanburn, a second-round pick out of Arkansas in June, made a big impression on the organization after signing and has pitched well for short-season Vermont. In five games, he struck out 14 in 13 innings while allowing five earned runs and four walks.

• Outfielder Rashun Dixon hit four home runs in the first two weeks of August for low Class A Burlington, giving him 14 for the year, but the 21-year-old's apparent progress stopped when the A's placed him on the suspended list in what one team official called "an internal situation."