A's Norris Breaks Through After Focusing On Defense
OAKLAND—During the early years of Derek Norris
' career, the questions
swirled about whether the converted third baseman could really become a
catcher. He had the tools, he just seemed to have trouble putting on the
Norris knew there was a problem, and he found the solution in his head.
"I think it's just a matter of before, I was a hitting catcher," Norris
said. "Now I consider myself a catcher who can hit. Putting that
priority before the hitting is what really turned it around for me;
taking more pride in what I do behind there."
By the time he showed up in Oakland for spring training this year, after
being part of the Gio Gonzalez
trade with the Nationals, there were no
questions about his defense.
"I didn't see him before, so I didn't know what he had looked like," A's
farm director Kieth Lieppman said. "What we saw looked like a fairly
close to finished product. He had that combination of skills—he received
well, threw well and had good relationships with the pitchers."
Norris, 23, began the season in Triple-A, under the tutelage of
Sacramento manager Darren Bush, a former catcher who helped with the
polishing process. He earned a call to the majors on June 21, where he
took much of the starting job from incumbent Kurt Suzuki
. Rather than
make for a difficult transition, Suzuki helped tutor Norris and teach
him about the finer points of catching.
In a surprising series of events, the A's acquired George Kottaras
July 30 and optioned Norris, then three days later traded Suzuki to the
Nationals and made Norris and Kottaras their catching tandem. And, that
seems the plan for the future.
"He has the ability to be an all-around catcher," said A's manager Bob
Melvin, a former catcher himself. "He's going to receive, he's going to
block and throw, and he's definitely going to hit."
The 6-foot, 210-pound Norris hit .201/.276/.349 with seven homers and 34
RBIs in 209 big league at-bats, and one of those homers was a walk-off
against the Giants. At Sacramento, he hit .271/.329/.477 with nine
homers in 218 at-bats. The A's believe the average will increase with
Now the A's will be watching to see if Norris grows into the star that Melvin predicts he will become.
• Righthander Michael Ynoa
has been impressive during instructional
league, Lieppman said. Ynoa has been hampered by health problems during
the first three years after signing for a huge bonus out of the
• Daniel Robertson
, a high school shortstop who was expected to convert
to third base, has been so impressive at short in instructs that the A's
plan to keep him at the position and see how he develops.