9:05pm: It doesn’t appear as though there’s an injury to Norris. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi tweets that the Jays wanted Norris to continue building up arm strength in extended Spring Training despite having an open 40-man roster spot following today’s Kevin Pillar trade. Norris felt as though he’s ready to go, however, so the two sides will instead part ways.
7:42pm: The Blue Jays have released right-hander Bud Norris from his minor league contract, TSN’s Scott Mitchell reports (via Twitter). He’ll head back to the open market in search of a new opportunity.
Toronto slowed Norris, 34, down after a couple of spring appearances in what was said at the time to be an effort to allow him to build up strength after a late start to Spring Training. Norris was reportedly throwing 90-91 mph recently — well south of the 94.6 mph he averaged in 2018 — but that was chalked up to the fact that he didn’t sign until mid-March rather than any kind of legitimate injury concern. The Jays certainly didn’t seem concerned about his health, as they paid Norris a $100K retention bonus to keep him in the organization after informing him that he wouldn’t make the Opening Day roster.
Norris has had a pair of solid seasons with the Angels and Cardinals over the past two seasons. Over the life of 57 2/3 innings in St. Louis last year, the righty notched a 3.59 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 1.25 HR/9 and a 42.6 percent ground-ball rate. Fielding-independent metrics like FIP (3.99), xFIP (3.65) and SIERA (3.30) all felt that he was a generally solid bullpen piece with an ERA that was largely reflective of his overall performance. Last year was Norris’ second straight year with a swinging-strike rate of 12 percent or better — the first two such campaigns of his career — and he induced swings at pitches outside the strike zone at a career-best 35.9 percent clip as well, tying him for 18th among 151 qualified relievers.
The reasons for his release remain unclear, but assuming that Norris is indeed in good health and hasn’t been diagnosed with an injury that’d cause him to miss substantial time, he’ll likely latch on as a bullpen option with another club before long.