Potomac Nationals catcher Derek Norris has one more day at instructional league before heading to the Land of the Sun and the Arizona Fall League. The first workout is scheduled for Thursday and the first game is October 12.
Norris says he is excited to be able to catch Brad Peacock, Adam Carr and Cole Kimball. Norris caught Kimball for one game and has never caught Carr. He says he can learn from calling games for other pitchers.
"I am really looking forward to working with a guy like Carr because of all the experience under his belt," Norris said.
The catcher likes to work with pitchers from the higher levels of the minors so he can learn tendencies from a closer or set up role type of guy.
"We really didn't have a true closer in High-A because of the rule that guys could not pitch on consecutive days," Norris said. Even if you threw one pitch or 15 pitches, in Single-A if you pitched, you got the next night off."
So Norris says guys like Carr can help him with late inning strategies for getting guys out because they pitch more frequently than the younger guys.
Norris was all set to play in the AFL last season before injuring his hand in the final week of the season, but he says everything happens for a reason.
"I really feel like I learned a lot more after another 365 days of the ups and downs of a full season," he said.
Potomac's season was similar to the slow start that Norris endured. The P-Nats didn't play well in the first half but then rebounded to earn a playoff berth with a scorching second half. They stunned Frederick and Winston-Salem to win the Carolina League championship.
"It was crazy. We actually had a far more talented roster in the first half of the season, but couldn't put it together. Something happened in the second half. Every guy knew their role and played it well. We had different guys in different positions almost every night. Every guy played the role they were asked to do."
Norris says beating Winston-Salem for the final was a huge upset.
"It was truly David versus Goliath. All their guys had .300 averages and multiple plus-70 RBI guys. But our whole team clicked at the right time. We pitched very well in the series. We didn't put up a ton of runs but got the clutch hits."
Norris said a great example of the team's clutch hits during the playoff push came from a utility player, Jamar Walton, who was signed late in the season after getting released by the Royals.
"He didn't get many hits but it seemed like every hit he got was huge," Norris remembered. "He had a grand slam against Frederick and a two-run homer and RBI-single against Winston-Salem. Jamar really came through."
Norris' average was just .235 this year, but he walked 89 times, smacked 19 doubles, 12 homers and 49 RBI. His OBP and SLUG were both .419 and his RISP was .300. He played only 94 games after battling through getting hit in the helmet by a pitch and a wrist injury, which landed him on the disabled list twice.
Norris says he has made some adjustments at the plate thanks to the coaching staff this week in Viera at the instructional league, and that has made a world of difference.
"For some reason I am locked in much better," he said. "I got here and the hitting coach helped me make some subtle changes. I had changed my swing a little due to a pinched nerve. Now they have fixed my swing back to the way it was in Hagerstown last season.
"The last few days I am seeing the ball a lot better. I am making contact much more consistently. I can definitely see a difference."
Norris is anxious to take what he has learned in Florida to Arizona next week and put it to the test in the Fall league.
"I am really excited to take on the best of the best," Norris said. "This is what it is all about."