Norris, Tom Gage, Robbie Cano Howarth

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Daniel-Norris2

 * LHP Daniel Norris made his second start of the spring against the Detroit Tigers and Tom Gage of the Detroit News was NOT there to cover the game in Lakeland … and that too is news. ….

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Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

LAKELAND, Fla. _ Lefty Daniel Norris didn’t have the most impressive line in Florida on Monday afternoon.

It was more of a Dave Stieb line: complete with a blooper and a bleeder.

Norris worked two plus innings in his second start. After a 1-2-3 first, he faced six men in the second and two in the third before leaving.

Bidding for a spot in the rotation, Norris didn’t harm his chances allowing four hits and three runs. He threw 47 pitches (11 more than his first start against the Baltimore Orioles), 34 for strikes.

Norris’ fastball sat at 93-94 MPH on the radar guns, according to scouts, hitting 96.

“It felt pretty much the same as the first start (in Sarasota),” Norris said. “Sometimes it’s tough to get the ball going where you want it. I made my pitches and was around the zone.”

Norris struck out Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose to open the game and popped up Yoenis Cespedes.

Alex Avila doubled off the left field wall to open the second. Nick Castellanos rolled a single into left and with two out a James McCann’s bloop fell before Norris whiffed Andrew Romine ending the inning.

“I talked to John (Gibbons, manager) about starting off Davis with a breaking ball to open the third,” Norris said.

Davis battled fouling off a number of pitches to draw a nine-pitch walk, stole second and scored when Gose lined a pitch off Norris’ glove for a double.

A few inches the other way and he catches the ball.

Gose took off for third as catcher Dioner Navarro lobbed the ball back to reliever Preston Guilmet, who threw wildly and in a hurry to third allowing Gose to score.

“I saw Anthony do that at Buffalo,” said Norris, who was watching from the dugout by then.

No Joke: The first time for me visiting Joker Marchant Stadium was in the early 1980s covering the Montreal Expos.

Tom Gage was here … covering the Tigers for the Detroit News like a fresh tarp, as he had since 1979.

Gage won the J.G. Taylor Spink award in December “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” in voting by the Baseball Writers of America Association.

He was a fixture every year since, along with Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

Once asked why he had not written a book, Gage answered,

“Because I write the equivalent of two every season.”
Triple-A Buffalo hitting coach Richie Hebner came out of the clubhouse Monday and asked “where’s Tom Gage? I want him to write a book on me: 22 years in the majors, 17 in the minors, I dug graves for 35 years and drove a hearse for 12. I have stories to tell.”

Gage could pound it out: side bars, notes, pluggers, game over stories, rainy-day stories and write-thru gamer stories.

One night at Comerica Park in 2012 manager John Farrell used Omar Vizquel to pinch hit and the veteran singled with two out and the Jays losing 3-2.

On the second pitch, Vizquel was off and running. Avila threw him out.

Game over.

I thought it was a dumb decision to run with Rajai Davis at the plate. Down to one out the reward (of stealing second) is not worth the risk (game over).

Both Farrell and Vizquel defended the attempt. I argued it had to be wrong because the runner was out.

Next day I picked up the News and read under Gage’s byline:

“Ever seen a game end with a 45-year-old trying to steal second? Maybe in a fantasy camp? ”

It was one of those “wish I’d written that” moments that happened so often in Detroit … reading Gage.

Gage wasn’t here Monday.

The decision makers at the News removed him from the baseball beat.

On the road: Jays president Paul Beeston drove to Syracuse Monday to the attend the funeral of former Syracuse Chiefs general manager Tex Simone.

It’s been rough off season for the Jays front office. Many have attended the funerals of Pat Hentgen’s father, also named Pat in Michigan, Buffalo Bisons GM Michael Buczkowski’s father Stanley in Buffalo; former Toronto Star trail-breaking scribe Alison Gordon and former Jays minor league instructor Bill Monbouquette in Medford, Mass.

“Five funerals? This winter I did 70,” said Hebner, who drives a hearse for Ginley funeral homes in Franklin, Medway and Walpole, Mass.

Hello friends: Super scout Gary Hughes was covering the Jays-Tigers game. Before becoming the Montreal Expos scouting director and helping Dave Dombrowski put together the 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins he coached high school ball at Marin Catholic High.

Hughes spotted Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth walking by and explained Howarth had played for Novato High against his school.

“He was in his day,” said Hughes, “a young Robinson Cano.”

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