Norris picking up pitchers with strong defensive play

Norris picking up pitchers with strong defensive play

SEATTLE -- Derek Norris hasn't done much at the plate recently to warrant much attention, but his defensive doings are drawing plenty praise.

The A's catcher, who entered Sunday's series finale in Seattle batting .137 over his last 16 games, was crucial to his club's 4-3 victory over the Mariners on Saturday that snapped a five-game losing streak.

Norris picked off a runner in the fourth inning, and he blocked several balls in the dirt thrown not only by an effectively wild Jarrod Parker but by closer Grant Balfour in the ninth. That's when Norris held Kelly Shoppach at first base, the A's only up by a run, by getting in front of a fastball in the dirt, ultimately preventing him from scoring when Michael Saunders singled with two outs.

"He had a great game behind the plate," manager Bob Melvin said. "Those don't show up in the box score. There's a pickoff at first and a walk right behind it, and you don't know where that inning could have gone.

"He's not only blocking balls in the dirt, but fastballs in the dirt, which are really hard to do. You block a ball with a man on third, that's like an RBI for me, so he had a terrific game behind the plate and was very instrumental in the win."

Norris, 24, has quietly built strong relationships with each of Oakland's pitchers since the time he joined the A's last year.

"We've always felt like he has the chance to be a good defender," Melvin said. "He's one of those all-around guys that has the chance to be a true everyday guy that can do it both offensively and defensively. I think the more you get to learn a staff the more respect they have for you in calling a game, more trust they have in you. They definitely trust him."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.