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Norris evolving as a clubhouse leader

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SAN FRANCISCO -- It was sometime during A's Spring Training when outfielder Chris Young learned the truth about catcher Derek Norris.

Young, fresh off spending seven seasons in the National League with the D-backs, turned to Norris for insights on attacking the opponent's starting pitcher. But as the youngest member of the A's active roster, Norris was unable to provide advice.

"I just assumed by the way he carried himself that he had been around for a few years," Young said. "It's just one of those things that you get a feeling for with some players. The way he goes about his business, you see how important the game is to him. You can see that he takes it seriously."

Mistakes like Young's are fine with Norris. If anything, they're preferred. Oakland's second-year catcher has always been complimented on being mature for his age -- something he takes as much pride in as any facet of his game.

"I try to go about my business in a way that I don't want anybody to know if I have 10 years or one year or whatever in this league," said Norris, 24, who joked that he'd look much younger without his straggly facial hair. "That's how I think you gain respect with your teammates."

Norris' maturity extends to his approach behind the plate, where he has backed the A's starting pitchers to one of their best stretches of the season. Oakland's starters are 7-1 with a 2.72 ERA in their 11 past games and have allowed no more than one walk in their last seven starts. He was behind the plate for nine of those.

"The fact that he's been catching a lot here as of late and been having some success, he knows the pitchers now with his second year with them for the most part," A's manager Bob Melvin said this week.

Norris has counterbalanced his youth by watching video of opposing hitters' at-bats and offering his findings to the pitchers before games.

"I present them with a game plan so they know I've done my homework, they know I've done my research and I'm prepared for the game," Norris said. "I think they put that in the back of their mind so that when it comes down to it, if they execute the pitches I call, I got their back and want what's best for them."

John Jaso started Wednesday's game against the Giants, though there was a chance Melvin could insert Norris into the lineup later in the game as the A's began a two-game foray into NL play. Norris cranked a two-run home run down the left-field line Tuesday's second inning to give the A's a 2-1 lead, as he attempts to expand upon his role as simply a game manager.

"The next step is to become a little bit more of a leader and impactful here and being impactful here with some of your conversations that you normally don't have as a younger player," Melvin said. "But he is maturing into that role."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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