DETROIT - Bud Norris was told yesterday on the flight to Detroit that he would start Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
“Going into the postseason, we knew that anything was possible, and Buck (Showalter) said for all of us to be ready,” Norris said. “He said he wanted to move things around and said, ‘You got the ball in Game 3.’ And I got excited and came prepared for tomorrow.”
Norris will be appearing in his first playoff game with a chance to pitch the Orioles into the AL Championship Series.
“That’s pretty much what you dream of as a kid, play in the postseason and get to the World Series, and this is just one of the steps,” Norris said.
“We’ve gotten to this point as an entire team to do everything they’ve done, but this is a five-game series. It’s a little more crunched and everything else. But we’ve got 2‑0, going in with the lead, which is really nice. Played so well in front of our home fans.
“We’ve got one game to get here. Hopefully, we’ll win the first one and can get back home again.”
“It’s going to be a hostile environment. The Detroit fans are special fans. But we have a good ballclub over there. I’m just going to go out there and pitch. You have to prepare the best you can, mentally and physically. I’ve pitched in some big games in my career and this might be the biggest. It’s just 60 feet, six inches and I’m going to go out there and pitch the best game I can.”
Norris hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 24 in the Bronx. He’s 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts.
“I got the end of the season off to have a good start. I finished pretty strong. I was happy with the way we finished the season and clinched,” Norris said.
“That being said, I haven’t pitched in a while, but I’ve been on my work days and everything else and had plenty of bullpens in between. I feel great. There’s nothing holding me back and go out there and keep doing what I’ve been doing the whole season.”
Norris said he hasn’t noticed a difference in intensity during the first two games.
“Our guys are jazzed every day we get to the ballpark,” he said. ” We’ve had such an amazing season already. To play as well as we have and to get to this point has been special. But we’re professionals and we come to the park and are ready to play and strap it on and go.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to have the same focus as I have had the entire season, and that’s going to be in control, making my pitches. Go out there and make the best pitches I can and get my guys to play good defense for me and play nine innings, hopefully.”
Norris made his first 2014 start against the Tigers on April 5 at Comerica Park and allowed five runs and nine hits five innings. He faced them again on May 12 in Baltimore and allowed four runs and five hits in 7 2/3 innings.
“We haven’t seen them since April, May. Those are my two starts against them. But you know what they’ve got,” Norris said.
“We’ve seen them for the last two games. I got to watch when Chris Tillman was pitching and Kevin Gausman yesterday. I got to see some things. But it’s just really just working with the catchers, whoever is behind the plate, whether it’s Nick Hundley or Caleb (Joseph). You go in and execute.
“They have a great lineup, everybody knows that. We’ve got a great lineup over here. But we played some good games against them in the first two and expect to go out there and do the same thing tomorrow.”
He’s going to be backed by the same bullpen that continues to hold a decisive edge over the Tigers, a bullpen that’s been used a little differently by Showalter in the playoffs.
“We had a couple of meetings and he said things are going to be worked around. He wants to use the matchups the best he can. He realized it’s going to be a short series,” Norris said.
“It does tell you about the trust he has in us to get the job done. He’s been there before. You’ve got to trust him the whole way through. That’s what takes a lot of pressure off of us just to go out there and play as far as the staff is concerned. That’s all you can do. When he comes and gets the ball, we’re done. That’s all we can do. And we’re going to leave it on the field.
“I know he has a lot of trust in each and every guy and it shows a lot more trust in me tomorrow, but I’m not going to change anything. I’m going to go out there and pitch and do what I’ve been doing all season.”
Norris is pretty much the last guy you’d expect to back down from a challenge. He brings more than a selection of pitches. He brings some serious attitude.
“Bud is a very competitive, athletic guy,” Showalter said. “He fields the position well. There is nobody that watches the game more than him. You watch him between starts, you can tell he’s a fan of the game. He likes baseball. He likes the competitive part of it.
“He’s one of those guys on game day when he’s pitching, he’s not a real pleasant guy to be around. But he likes to compete, he likes the competition. I’m not saying this is something new for him being in the playoffs because it’s all relative in your life and things that you’ve had to be competitive at. It’s just a different stage.
“I told you guys the state championship that we won in high school, I couldn’t imagine anything more anxiety, pressure‑packed for me, but it was just all relative where you were in your life at that point. Bud likes to compete and he doesn’t handle... I mean, he handles adversity well, (but) he doesn’t handle not being a contributor very well.”