Derek Norris had one of his best games of the season at the plate yesterday. It was not enough to save his job, as the Tampa Bay Rays designated the catcher for assignment.
As Wilson Ramos came closer to returning from the disabled list, it became evident that the Tampa Bay Rays would have a difficult decision to make at catcher. Either Derek Norris or Jesus Sucre would need to be taken off the 25 man roster, as the Rays required the roster spot. Although Norris had been the starter while Ramos was on the shelf, he had struggled, posting a .201/.258/.380 batting line in his 198 plate appearances.
However, it seemed as though Norris was getting on track with the bat. Over his past nine games, he had produced a .250/.286/.656 batting line, hitting four homers and driving in seven runs. In his start yesterday, Norris had his best game for the Rays, going 3-4 with a homer and a double.
In the end, that performance was unable to save Norris’ job. Following their game against the Orioles, the Rays designated Norris for assignment. Meanwhile, Ramos is slated to be activated before the game on Saturday, where he will presumably get his first start behind the plate for Tampa Bay.
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While the decision to designate Norris for assignment is not unexpected, it does come with some risk. Ramos had performed well during his rehab, but there are still questions as to how often he will be behind the plate. Sucre has been a decent backup in his limited opportunities, but may see a larger role with Ramos presumably getting regular breaks from catching.
With his big game yesterday, Norris also has been better than Sucre with the bat. That 3-4 performance brought Norris up to a 71 OPS+, while Sucre’s .222/.250/.356 batting line is worth a 63 OPS+.
Likewise, Norris has been better with the pitching staff. While Sucre earned his spot on the major league roster due to his preparation behind the plate and his ability to work with the pitching staff, the Rays have bad better pitching with Norris behind the dish. Thus far in 2017, the Rays have a 3.90 ERA with Norris catching, as opposed to a 4.40 ERA with Sucre.
In the end, the Tampa Bay Rays designating Derek Norris for assignment seemed inevitable. However, given that Wilson Ramos is not a given behind the plate just yet, it is still a risky move.