After a full year of injuries and plate inconsistency, Nationals catcher Derek Norris made an emphatic debut in his first two games this week in the Arizona Fall League with a two-run homer, a couple of walks and another safety for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Norris hopes the minor adjustments he made to his swing at instructs will make the difference throughout the next month of Fall ball.
Nationals hitting coordinator Rick Schu monitored Norris’ progress in Viera and says it is no surprise that he is continuing that trend in the AFL.
“There was no question he was going to hit,” Schu said. “Derek improved defensively this season: calling games, receiving and throwing. He really did a good job with that and made that a focus this year.”
Norris was limited to just 94 games this season and hit just .235 for the P-Nats, but drew a lot of walks.
“Derek struggled with the bat after coming back from the hand injury and then getting hit in the dome,” Schu said. “It was kind of a messed up year for him offensively; he kind of lost his stroke a little bit.”
Norris says that all changed when he arrived at the Nationals training facility and started working with Double-A hitting coach Troy Gingrich.
“Gingrich is awesome,” Schu agreed. “He is really good at breaking down swings. Troy got Derek to go short to the ball. He also saw some things with his bat angle. Derek took to the changes right away. He has a lot of upside, no doubt.”
Danny Espinosa talked about what a difference Gingrich meant to him when he arrived in Harrisburg this summer and now Gingrich appears to be helping Norris too.
Norris told me he was not worried about the acquisition of Wilson Ramos from Minnesota during the season because competition is what this game is all about. But it wasn’t just Norris who noticed the Ramos deal.
“I am sure the eyes are out there,” Schu said. “You are always kind of looking at who you are competing with on the team. Not that you are going to change your approach to the game and try harder or ask to be traded, but I know even (Jesus) Flores was watching Ramos. All Norris can control is what is between the lines.”
If Norris can maintain this consistency in Arizona through November 20, there is a strong possibility that he would be a top candidate to start in Harrisburg in 2011.