Norris aims to become all-around, everyday catcher

Norris aims to become all-around, everyday catcher
March 19, 2014, 6:30 pm
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I think he’s got the ability to be an everyday player, but the team is set up a certain way, and that’s the way we’ll play it.
Bob Melvin

Programming note: A’s Insider Joe Stiglich is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Catcher Derek Norris has quietly put together an impressive spring camp for the Oakland A’s.

With much discussion centering on whether Stephen Vogt and John Jaso will both make the team, which would give the A’s three catchers, Norris has been one of the team’s best hitters in Cactus League play.

His .407 batting average is second only to Brandon Moss’ .433 among A’s regulars. He’s homered twice to go with nine RBI in 10 games.

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“He’s had very consistent at-bats,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got a little bit of a shorter swing. He’s staying up the middle a little more. He’s been killing lefties like he normally does and he’s getting good at-bats against the righties.”

Hitting right-handed pitching has been Norris’ weakness since he arrived in the majors in 2012. He’s a .280 hitter against lefties in the regular season, just .173 against right-handers.

Norris would love to prove to the A’s he can hit righties consistently and earn himself everyday playing time. But Oakland employed a platoon system at catcher last season and the A’s plan to do the same this season. Norris will share catching duties with either Vogt or Jaso, who both hit from the left side.

If the A’s keep three catchers, Vogt will catch a lot and Jaso will see time at DH. But if the A’s keep just two, it figures to be Norris and Jaso.

[RELATED: Joe Stiglich's A's chat transcript (3.19.14)]

“I think (regular playing time) is everyone’s goal,” Norris said. “ The system is gonna be what it is. They’re gonna end up making the decision, which is out of my hands.”

Melvin conceded that making Norris an everyday catcher isn’t on the agenda at the current time.

“Even if he does hit righties better, he’d have to hit them better than the guys we have on the other side,” Melvin said. “I think he’s got the ability to be an everyday player, but the team is set up a certain way, and that’s the way we’ll play it.”

Norris is also aiming for improvement defensively. He’s worked diligently with A’s bullpen coach Darren Bush, who doubles as the catching coach, to improve his fundamentals in every defensive facet.

Norris goes through a daily, detailed regiment of drills.

“We wanted to work on everything,” Bush said. “Blocking (pitches), throwing … His receiving has always been very good.”

For his career, Norris has thrown out just 13 of 82 attempted base stealers (15.9 percent).

Bush has worked with Norris on his throwing, saying it’s important for him to “stay in his legs” and not get too upright when he goes to throw.

“When you pop up, you’re going to lose your release point,” Bush said. “He needs to make sure he stays down, stays through the ball. When he does, he’s a plus thrower.”

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