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The Rays prepare for Daniel Norris

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After spoiling the Blue Jays home opener last night in a thrilling conclusion, they'll play the 2nd game of the series tonight that can be watched for free on MLB.TV.

Making his starting debut, Matt Andriese will go against Johnson City's second favorite son, Daniel Norris. With his starting lineup tonight, Kevin Cash has crammed as many right handed bats as he can to face the southpaw as he as Rene Rivera at first base with Bobby Wilson doing the catching. Also, Tim Beckham gets his first career start at short.

Norris made his major league debut last September after starting the season at High-A Dunedin. His first appearance came against the Red Sox and he struck out the first batter he faced when he dropped a 3-2 curve ball in for strike three against David Ortiz.

Norris has two pitches that can be rated as plus, his change up and slider, while his fastball is average and sits in the low 90's. The lefty throws both kinds of fastball, and both of which have plenty of run, but he generally relies on the four-seam while mixing in a change and slider. The aforementioned curve ball can drop in on occasion with a 12-6 hammer. He won't blow you away, his stuff sits 92, but that doesn't take away from his effectiveness.

Heading into this season, he was ranked as the best prospect in the Jays system and 18th in the MLB by Baseball America. Norris is an interesting story, as he spent the offseason living out of his custom classic Volkswagen van and working on an incredible beard. Back when he was drafted, he was projected to be a high pick coming early in the first round, but his sign-ability was questioned as he was committed to Clemson University.

Nevertheless, the Toronto Blue Jays took Norris with the 74th pick of the 2011 draft. During his first two years as a professional athlete, Norris struggled to put up good numbers, but showed good poise. In 2014 though, something clicked and Norris soared through the Blue Jays system, earning a spot in the futures game. Finally in September he earned the call.

During spring training, he was competing for a spot in the starting rotation when Marcus Stroman went down for the year, ensuring him a starting spot. Across all levels, Norris is sporting a 28.5% strikeout rate and 10% walk rate. At the major league level, he has nine strikeouts and seven walks over 12.1 IP.

Here's what Bluebird Banter's Tom Dakers had to say about Daniel Norris in our Series Preview Q&A:

As far as pitching, he's a good prospect. I think he's been rushed a bit, he started last season at A ball.

In a perfect world, he would have started this year at Triple-A. He's only thrown about 60 innings above A. He'll get his strikeouts, he averaged 11.8 strikeouts/9 innings in the minors last year, but control can be a problem too. The hope is that our new catcher, Russell Martin, can help keep him in the strikezone.

My understanding is he hasn't pitched into the 7th inning in his pro career yet, so he'll have to be treated with kids gloves, especially early in the season. I wouldn't expect him to go more than 5 or 6 innings in a start for, at least, the first couple of months.

And he only threw about 130 innings last year. I wouldn't expect him to get more than 170 innings or so this year.

But I think he's going to fun to watch. He'll have some bad starts, but watching young players improves is part of the fun of being a baseball fan.

Here are Ian's projections for both starters:


Some Pregame Notes:

Jake Odorizzi is part of an exclusive group

The Rays pitching has been outstanding

They signed some minor league depth

Drew Smyly was solid today in his second rehab start

Go Rays!