Norris builds momentum with 'memorable moment'

September 15, 2012, 11:59 pm
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OAKLAND -- Derek Norris has only thrown out five attempted base stealers this season in 33 tries. He'll have to hope the dramatic fashion in which the fifth one occurred will help turn around his season defensively. Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning on Friday night, Norris threw out pinch runner Xavier Avery to end the game -- sort of in walk-off fashion. "You don't see too many games end like that," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was not only exciting for him it was exciting for all of us to end the game like that."The last time the A's caught a runner stealing to end a game was April 5, 2007 when Jason Kendall threw out Erick Aybar to give the A's a 4-3 win over the Angels. After Norris made the successful throw he let out an emotional scream and walked to first base looking like Dr. Bruce Banner just before turning into the Hulk.
"I don't think I've ever got an adrenaline rush like that before," Norris said. "The crowd was great and hopefully they keep coming back and it was something that I'll remember for a while."Norris' 15.2 caught stealing percentage leaves a lot of room for improvement. Melvin thinks his struggles behind the dish have a lot to do with irregular playing time this season."When you are not playing every day at the big league level it can be tough to keep your rhythm," Melvin said. "In Triple-A they stopped running on him he was throwing the ball so well. He has the ability to do it."Norris has issues gunning down runners but he hasn't had any trouble handling the pitching staff in Kurt Suzuki's absence. A's pitchers have a 2.97 ERA with Norris behind the plate. With a rookie catcher handling a predominantly rookie staff the A's have performed surprisingly well. Both Norris and catcher George Kottaras have filled in admirably in Suzuki's absence because they have a strong support structure in place. "Both of our guys understand what we expect and Curt Young has been great about putting together a game plan for them," Melvin said. "The pitchers too are starting to get a little bit more involved where there is give and take between the pitchers and catchers." "When you have a guy like Suzuki some of the pitchers just say 'OK, whatever he puts down, we'll throw.' It's actually helped them out some in that they're probably more aware of what their strengths and weaknesses are too," Melvin added.Norris may have lost a veteran leader when Suzuki was traded, but he still has a very accomplished instructor in Melvin who was a big league catcher for 10 years. "He's meant a lot to me, ever since Day 1 of Spring Training and being traded he's treated me well," Norris said. "He's been a great influence, positive, and you really can't ask for anything more from him."With a helping hand from the skipper maybe Norris can look less like Dr. Banner and more like the incredible green beast that he morphs into.

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