LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Daniel Norris was anxious. Shane Greene was antsy. Most pitchers feel an extra jolt of adrenaline in their first outing of the spring, but there’s reason for a slightly amplified sense of pressure for both players.
Both Norris and Greene are competing, among others, for one remaining spot in the Detroit Tigers' starting rotation, and both aimed to make a strong early impression Thursday against the Braves at Champion Stadium.
“I didn’t sense anxiety, but I could tell that, I think both wanted to get off to an extremely good, strong start,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Realistically, Ausmus said, both pitchers can relax a bit and take comfort in the fact that this was the first outing and nobody is expecting perfection on the mound right now. No decisions will be made any time soon, Ausmus assured.
Still, Norris and Greene both hope to build off of their performances Thursday.
“Thinking back on it, I just need to slow down a little bit, breathe a little better. First outing, kinda anxious,” Norris said in an honest self-reflection.
The 22-year-old left-hander – who, by virtue of a solid showing in the final months of last season, has led some to believe he has the inside track – gave up one hit – a home run – and a walk with one strikeout in two innings.
There were a few pitches that got away from him. Norris said he tried to do too much on those, make them “nasty.” As hard as he has tried to dial down his emotions and keep his first start in perspective, he still finds it hard not to go out there as a fierce competitor.
“Maybe a little amped up. He wasn’t, definitely, himself. That being said, he did a damn good job of getting through those innings,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who smacked a double to deep right in another productive day from the left side of the plate. “I know he wasn’t happy with the outcome of what he's expecting, but when you go out there with not your best stuff and you are still able to keep your team in the game, that’s what good pitchers do.”
“When a young kid gets himself out of a tough situation,” Saltalamacchia continued, “it shows you how good he's going to be.”
That potential was also something Saltalamacchia noticed in Greene’s outing as well.
“I definitely think he’s got a lot better stuff, which is kinda scary considering he was able to go out there and throw really well,” Saltalamacchia said.
Greene, who is returning after undergoing surgery for a pseudoaneurysm in his shoulder last year, gave up one hit and one walk with two strikeouts in two innings. While many pitchers emphasize certain pitches they want to fine-tune and test in their first outing, Greene was simply encouraged by his health on the mound.
“I just wanted to compete,” said Greene, whose 2015 season ended in early August. “I haven’t been able to do that in a while. And it feels good to be able to pitch again.”
Greene, who was pitching through discomfort and pain as a result of the aneurysm last season – namely cold, numb fingers – said he is still experiencing those symptoms but that they have abated significantly. The stinging and cold sensation still happens – the blood clots resulting from the aneurysm have yet to dissolve completely – but less frequently.
“You just really never know. Sometimes they’re cold, sometimes they’re warm, but they’re getting better and not getting cold nearly as often,” Greene said. “The biggest thing for me is when I’m out there I’m not thinking about it. That's huge.”