Los Angeles Angels: Closer Bud Norris has reinvented himself this year

At 32-years-old and in his ninth MLB season, pitcher Bud Norris has reinvented himself as a closer for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Although he’s currently on the disabled list, Norris expects to return later this week after a minimal stay due to inflammation in his right knee. When he does, will the magic continue?

After years of mediocrity, Norris has become one of the better closers in baseball. For the most part, Norris was a starting pitcher during his time in MLB. He has made a total of 185 starts with 80 appearances out of the bullpen. Many of those games in relief occurred in the last three seasons when it became clear Norris was no longer starter material.

There was a time, however brief it was, when Norris was a decent starting pitcher. The 2014 season stands out as his best but also serves as his last campaign starting regularly. That year, Norris was 15-8 for the Baltimore Orioles. He posted a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts. It was his last hoorah as a starting pitcher. The following year, Norris struggled for the Orioles to the point where they released him in August.

Since then, Norris has pitched for the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers before joining the Angels this offseason. With nothing to lose and a lot to prove, Norris pitched his way into a relief role. Injuries to Cam Bedrosian and Huston Street opened up the chance to close. Norris took advantage and has managed to put together a very respectable 2017 season as part of a strong Angels bullpen.

Through 34 games, Norris has tossed 33.1 innings and earned 11 saves. The 2.43 ERA is an ideal total for a closer. Most impressive, though, are the 11.3 strikeouts per nine. This is expected when any starter moves to the bullpen. Norris has met those expectations and more.

The season did not start off so graciously for Norris. In his second appearance, Norris blew the game and nearly cost the Angels a win. They would eventually come back and win but an early blown save was added to Norris’ stat sheet.

At the time, Norris was a middle reliever. The idea of him closing was a foolish one considering the 6.72 ERA he finished with in 2015 and the not much better 5.10 ERA he had in 2016. Putting him in the closer’s role wouldn’t suddenly fix his uncanny ability to give up runs regularly. Against the odds, Norris came through for the Angels.

When Norris does return on Thursday, it will be in a game against the Dodgers whom he finished 2016 with. The Dodgers unceremoniously released Norris before the 2016 postseason began. Surely, Norris has not forgotten this.

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