03/19/12 10:58 PM ET
Norberto finds success by adding changeup
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
The left-handed reliever forced more than a few whispers last season, when his walks outnumbered his innings total, 7 to 6 2/3. This spring, not so much. In fact, he's compiled more strikeouts (10) than innings pitched (7 2/3), while allowing just two walks along the way.
The transformation is no accident. Norberto is now equipped with a changeup, which in turn has allowed him to throw his fastball and slider for strikes. He was afforded the opportunity to work on all three pitches this winter in 16 appearances for the champion Los Leones del Escogido of the Dominican League.
Norberto made six starts, each one lending him time to repeat his release point more often.
"When you're repeating your pitches and have another pitch you can throw for strikes, it makes it easier on you," he said. "Before I couldn't throw my fastball for a strike, now I can do that. I feel ready, mentally and physically.
The 25-year-old lefty, acquired from Arizona at the Trade Deadline last year, took just two weeks off following his winter ball stint and headed straight to Miami to begin work with his physical trainer, the results of which were found on the scale. Norberto entered camp 10 pounds lighter.
"I worked really hard to get better," he said. "Having to face a lot of right-handers, I knew I needed an extra pitch, because before I had just two. I have that. I like what I'm doing, and I think I've done everything I can do."
His spring numbers suggest he has a good shot at breaking camp with the club, particularly with an extra bullpen spot now open in the injured Joey Devine's absence. Manager Bob Melvin, who has been impressed repeatedly with Norberto, has four bullpen slots to fill.
"He's been real good," Melvin sad. "He's throwing all of his pitches for strikes and, really, has done nothing to hurt his chances."
Timmons, Recker making trip to Japan
PHOENIX -- Wes Timmons has played in 998 Minor League games. Anthony Recker has played in 667. For those not counting, that's 1,665 games played in the Minors between the two.
It's not known when No. 1,666 will come, but manager Bob Melvin is making sure it won't happen before the pair venture to Japan with the big league club for the A's regular-season opener against the Mariners.
Melvin has picked both to be among the 30 players allowed to make the trip -- a number designed by Major League Baseball to give both Oakland and Seattle flexibility for the two exhibition contests that precede the two regular-season games.
Recker is likely guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster for the latter contests as the backup catcher, while Timmons may be restricted to the exhibition games, considering the A's also have Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales in tow as extra infielders. Oakland will be allowed to again expand its roster once back in the States for another round of exhibition games, lending Timmons more time to state his case for the April 6 Opening Day roster.
Weeks played with both Recker, 28, and Timmons, 33, at Triple-A last year. The 25-year-old second baseman said it's nice to see the gritty pair rewarded for the time and work they've put in.
"That's a great deal for those guys," he said. "It's a great baseball story. Usually, by the age of 33 like Timmons is, you're out of the game because you haven't made it or you're still going because there's an automatic spot for you. That hasn't been the case for either one of those guys. For them to come back and get rewarded with this trip, it makes me feel special, and I think that speaks on behalf of everybody else."
Melvin also said Monday that relievers Travis Schlichting and Evan Scribner, both non-roster invitees, will venture to Japan with the A's to give them some length in the bullpen.
The A's optioned catcher Derek Norris to Triple-A and also reassigned three non-roster invitees to Minor League camp: outfielders Brandon Moss and Jeff Fiorentino and catcher Ryan Ortiz. Moss compiled 10 hits in 19 at-bats this spring for a .526 average, making Melvin's conversation with him a difficult one.
"I was trying to tell Moss a reason why he was sent down today, and I couldn't come up with one, based on the fact he was hitting .500," he said. "It is what it is, and he understood. He could count the number of guys we signed after the time we signed him. It got a little more crowded."