Will Bud Norris become a key part of the Orioles rotation?

He joined the Orioles last July 31, coming over in a trade from Houston. He is under team control through the 2015 season. Can Bud Norris become a key factor in the O's rotation for at least the next two years?

The Orioles sure seem confident he can. They gave up what some considered too good of a price to get Norris when they dealt outfielder LJ Hoes, promising minor league pitcher Josh Hader and a competitive balance draft pick in June's draft for the right-hander, who will turn 29 March 2.

How much stock can we put into Norris' stats last year with the Orioles? Actually, probably not too much. We are talking about just a 50 2/3 innings sample size. He had mixed results, going 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA and WHIP of 1.678 as he allowed 61 hits and 24 walks. The 2013 season was his first time pitching in the American League and in a pennant race.

You can't take away one start, but if you could - one where Norris gave up sevens runs in 4 2/3 innings Aug. 23 against Oakland - his O's ERA would be reduced to 3.74, which would be even better than the 3.93 he posted in 21 Houston starts. Again, all of this comes off a small sample size.

Left-handed batters hit .333 with a .952 OPS against Norris in the American League last season. Over his career, lefties bat .273/.811 against him.

There will be some pressure on Norris to produce this year after his salary went up from $3 million to $5.3 million. The sides agreed last Thursday to avoid the possibility of an arbitration hearing. But now Norris is the highest-paid starter on the staff, and fans notice things like that and expect performance for pay. It's not a stretch to think if Norris has a poor 2014 season that he could be a non-tender candidate next offseason.

But Norris did flash some solid stuff last season, showing some of the reasons the club traded for him. He averaged 92.4 mph on his fastball according to FanGraphs, but had several games where he often was throwing 94 and 95 mph. His slider was a real plus pitch at times and is clearly a key pitch for him.

If you just look at his O's stats sheet, there are reasons to have concerns about Norris. But he showed quality stuff and Buck Showalter often talks about players performing their best in those age 28-32 seasons. Norris is now at that point of his career.

Can Norris be a solid starter for the 2014 Orioles?

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