Norton Puts Health Woes Behind Him

Norton hasn't walked a batter in last five outings

They say the sign of a player truly coming back from injury is the day getting hurt is no longer a concern and most believe it's at that point where their game can go to the next level. So while Tim Norton's resurgence with Tampa has gone extremely well numbers-wise, the fact that his health woes are behind him is even more significant.

"Took a while to rehab but I finally got to where I needed to be and I am locating my fastballs and those young guys behind the dish, Montero and Romine, have been doing a great job adapting to my personality out there on the mound," Tim Norton said. "Mostly, it's just locating fastballs and making pitches here and there."

Shoulder surgery can be hard to come back from. Some pitchers are never able to regain their pre-surgery ability. Yet, Norton has seemingly returned from the operation without skipping a beat. He has not been surprised by his early success, either.

"No, I feel like I've put in the work and I've worked hard to be where I am now and having the success I'm having now. I'm not surprised."

Often times, confidence is one of the major issues for a ball player returning from an injury. Confidence is no problem for Norton, according to manager Luis Sojo, who notes that he has returned, hurling fastballs with poise and focus.

"He wants to pitch," Sojo said. "He wants to be in the big spots. And as a manager, that is the kind of guy we want. He's got the stuff, he is a competitor, and I really like that about him."

"When you've got a guy who throws a lot of fastballs, it means he has got confidence in that pitch, and that is what you need to be able to get guys out."

He has quickly established himself as one Sojo's favorite weapons.

"I mean, you can tell his attitude on the mound, he is really tough," Sojo said regarding Norton's composure on the mound. "Yeah, he came out of [surgery], but he is looking great, looking great. I hope he stays healthy so he can move up soon."

Norton would be quick to agree with Sojo's assessment, though he feels his health woes are finally behind him. When asked what his goals were for the season, staying healthy was taken as a given.

"You know, it used to be stay healthy. But, I feel like I'm at the point now where I am healthy and my goals are to get more consistent, throw the ball where I want it and when I want it," Norton said.

Previously known for having one of the top fastballs in the system, Norton's velocity on the gun is beginning to show flashes of it's former zip.

"I've been up to 94 MPH which is something I did before surgery. I think after July I can maybe get a little better, get a bit more flexibility, but so far, the fastball has been pretty good."

In addition to the good fastball, Norton sports a slider and a changeup. Regarding the slider, Norton feels it has come along well, though he would like to be more consistent with his ability to locate it. Previously, Norton threw a splitter but that pitch has been put on the shelf to help relieve stress on his arm.

"You know what, it is. I think like everyone we could always use a little more consistency with the slider but for the most part it's been pretty good," he said.

"I think I can probably throw it for strikes a little more than I have been but as far as the break on it, the sharpness on it, it's pretty close to being where I need it to be."

"The splitter is still in the back pocket. I picked up a change when I was in Charleston to help me out because my arm was killing me with that splitter. So, I just stayed with my change so now it's fastball, change, slider, who knows if that's ever going to come back but for now, it's in the back pocket."

Sojo feels that Norton needs to develop his slider more if he wants to be truly dominant in the league, because his fastball is already very good on it's own. Mixing in a powerful breaking ball would make him a much more versatile and effective pitcher.

"Well, he still has to develop his breaking ball. Fastball-wise, he's okay. He throws hard, he throws strikes, but he's got to develop the breaking ball a bit more."

Norton has done exceptionally well returning from injury, posting very solid numbers over his brief stint with the Tampa club.

"I think I'm doing pretty well now but I know I can get better, more consistent. I just need to keep throwing strikes, that's the main thing."

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