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Astros' Norris a good bet to be moved
Meet Bud Norris. He’s a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher for the Houston Astros. He loves to golf. Born and raised in Marin County, Calif., educated at Cal Poly, Norris and his girlfriend are proud owners of an Alaskan Klee Kai named Bailey.
Remember this brief introduction next month, when it is possible your favorite team will trade for him.
With the non-waiver trade deadline six weeks away, Norris is a celebrity among industry insiders: A good pitcher on a last-place team. Since debuting with the Astros in 2009, he’s watched the rebuilding franchise trade Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Wandy Rodriguez, among others.
Now, most likely, it’s his turn.
“It’s hard to talk about it, in all honesty,” Norris told FOXSports.com on Tuesday before the Astros throttled Milwaukee, 10-1, in the opener of a three-game series. “There’s a lot going on around me. I’ve seen a lot of trades in my 3 1/2 years up here.
“I’ve seen stable, veteran players get moved to new organizations. Sometimes you don’t understand why it’s not you. So, it’s been tough ... Now that my name’s the one popping up, it’s a little different feeling. At the end of the day, I need to prepare myself to pitch every five days for the team I’m on. I’ve been in Houston my entire career. All I know is pitching for this team. If it changes, it changes. But it’s not going to change my aspect of going out there and pitching.”
Norris doesn’t have a no-trade clause. He doesn’t have a yes-trade clause, either. But he is a realist. He knows there is a decent chance he will be pitching elsewhere in August, and he’s mentally preparing himself for that possibility.
“You have to be informed,” he said. “I don’t think you want to be blindsided by it: One day, you come to the park and, boom, you’re gone. I don’t pay too much attention to it, but I’m definitely in the loop. I get tidbits here and there ... But it comes down to the front office. I have to impress somebody enough where they want to come get me.”
The Astros don’t have to trade Norris. As Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow reminded me Tuesday afternoon, Norris isn’t on track to become a free agent until after the 2015 season. “He helps us win games now, and he can give us value in our rotation for multiple years,” Luhnow said.
But there are a few reasons to believe Norris will be wearing another uniform by August:
* The trade market for starting pitchers appears thin, so the interest in Norris is likely to be high. That means there’s a greater chance Luhnow will find an offer too compelling to resist.
* The Astros, years away from serious contention in the American League West, still are in the stock-the-farm-system phase of their rebuild.
* Norris’ value is at a relative high point. He’s having the best season of his career — 5-7, 3.64 ERA — and is proving he can succeed in a hitter-friendly AL ballpark.
Norris and the Astros are lucky that his repertoire became more fully developed in the very season the team moved to the American League. In the past, he relied almost exclusively on his four-seam fastball and slider. Now he’s throwing more changeups, in addition to a new two-seamer and occasional cutter. Improved command has led to the lowest walk rate of his career.
In sum, Bud Norris has become a pretty good pitcher. And at a reasonable salary — $3 million for the season, only $1 million after July 31 — most contending teams would have room in their rotation for him.
The San Francisco Giants — Norris’ favorite team while growing up in nearby Novato — are one possible suitor. The Giants may have two rotation vacancies after this season, with the potential departures of Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, and Norris almost certainly would sign a multi-year extension to stay in San Francisco because of his roots in the area.
“It gives you goose bumps when you think about it,” Norris said when I mentioned that the Giants could be in the market for a starter. “Obviously growing up there, being a big Giants fan — and I rooted for the A’s, too, in the area, but I was more of a Giants fan. That’s a possibility. It’s all trade rumors, as they say.
“But if it were to happen, it would be a dream come true for me to play for my childhood team. I’ve (seen) some guys play here for their childhood teams: [former Astros catcher] Chris Snyder, a couple other guys. Whatever happens, I’ll be excited wherever I go to help that team or — if I stay here — to keep helping the Astros. But San Francisco is a lovely place, and I still call it home.”
We’ll see if Norris’ career takes that storybook turn. In the meantime, his profile is certain to rise. Maybe Bailey (the pooch) will become famous, too. Norris tweets about him (@BudNorris20), but hasn’t set up a separate account for the canine’s musings.
“I’m not as big as (David) Price down in Tampa,” Norris said, noting that the dog of the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner tweets under his own handle (@Astro_DPsDog).
That’s right: Price’s dog is named Astro. No one knows how much longer Norris will be called the same.
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