Astros’ Norris Staying In Control

After Bud Norris spent 2007 with low Class A Lexington, the Astros skipped the righthander over high Class A Salem—well, not technically, since he did make one start for Salem last year—and started him in Double-A Corpus Christi this season.

So far, Norris has made a smooth transition to Double-A. Through six starts, the 23-year-old Norris has a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings and a 40-11 K-BB ratio, averaging 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He complements his low-90s fastball with a slider and a changeup. While the Astros are still trying to get more separation in the speed of Norris’ fastball and his changeup, the slider is Norris’ primary off-speed pitch.

"(His slider) is short and sharp with downer action," Corpus Christi pitching coach Stan Boroski said. "When he’s in the zone with it, it can also be a swing-and-miss pitch. It breaks late and it’s got some bite to it. When he stays within himself and doesn’t try to do too much with it, it’s very effective."

Norris, who will take the mound tonight against Frisco (Rangers), impressed scouts late last year when he pitched in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where Norris ranked as the league’s No. 6 prospect. A 2006 sixth-rounder out of Cal Poly, Norris had a 33-12 K-BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings with a 3.65 ERA in HWB.

"He’s understanding that pitching to contact is a good thing," Boroski said. "He’s inviting contact by throwing it over the plate, and that’s what we want all our pitchers to do. The better he gets at initiating contact, having the hitter hit his pitch, the better he’ll be."

Midland (Athletics) got to Norris for six runs (five earned) in his last start. Control was the major issue for Norris, who struck out five batters but also walked five, with only 53 of his 95 pitches going for strikes. He’ll try to rebound tonight at home against the Frisco, which Norris dominated in his previous start on April 27—five innings, one run, no walks and eight strikeouts.

"Just like a lot of pitchers that have a lot of arm strength, he tries to overdo things at times, but when he’s smooth and easy he’s down in the zone," Boroski said. "He’s keeping his body under control a lot better."

Though he’s a starter for now, Norris may have a future in a big league bullpen. He works in the low-90s as a starter, but as a reliever he has operated in the mid-90s, topping out at 97 mph.

"It’s got velocity and life," Boroski said. "It’s got some riding action down in the zone. It’s not what I’d call a heavy sinker, but it has some riding life and it’s very late—it’s a swing-and-miss pitch. Like all guys, when he elevates it, it flattens out, but it’s a good pitch when he commands it down in the zone."