photo: Bud Norris (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports Images)
Back in the good old days when the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros regularly battled for the National League Central Division title, Astros right-hander Bud Norris consistently dominated St. Louis hitters like no other club.
That led to the famous 2010 slip of the tongue by then-Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who mistakenly called the hurler “Chuck”. Given the way Bud had pummeled Cardinals hitters, the tie between the Texan martial arts expert/action hero and the pitching nemesis seemed most appropriate. Hence, the coining of “BudChuck” as the opponent’s nickname.
The now-32-year old, entering his 10th year in the majors, has been well-traveled since leaving Houston in 2013. Norris has made St. Louis his sixth major league organization after coming to terms with the club on a one-year big league contract, pending a physical. The salary amount has yet to be disclosed.
The current version of Norris is very different from the one of years ago. With his career at a crossroads, Norris became a reliever in 2017 with the Angels. He junked his four-seamer, instead relying on a cutter and his off-speed stuff that enabled him to reverse a career-long problem with left-handed hitters.
It seemed to work very well initially. In 36 1/3 first-half innings, Norris posted a 2.23 ERA that was backed up by a ground ball rate of 47.6 percent. He fanned 47, but had control issues with 14 walks. Installed as the Halos’ closer, Norris saved 13 games before the break.
Everything fell apart in the second half, though, after right knee inflammation twice forced him onto the disabled list. Perhaps his body was not fully used to the relief role as he struggled to a second-half ERA of 7.01. Norris added six more saves to total 19 in 23 opportunities in 2017.
It appears Norris will be used as another relief option out of the Cardinals 2018 bullpen, where another free agent signee, Luke Gregerson, has been anointed closer. Other late-inning options in the made-over pen include trade acquisition Dominic Leone and returnee Tyler Lyons.
With the Cardinals’ 40-man roster full, space will need to be cleared when the Norris signing is made official. There are no 60-day disabled list moves apparent, so unless a trade is in the works, the 40-man spot of a player such as Mike Mayers, John Gant and Breyvic Valera appears to be most at-risk.
Norris arrives with some personal baggage. Two years ago, he criticized foreign players for their “antics” and not respecting the game – and then apologized. Details can be found here.
Norris’ salary will be $3 million plus “significant incentives” per Ken Rosenthal. The Post-Dispatch reports that Norris will be stretched out in the spring such that he could start or relieve, based on team needs.
My take is that Norris is going to open in the pen unless there is a significant run of bad luck during spring training with the starters.
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