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Norris shows potential beyond platoon role

Norris shows potential beyond platoon role

PHOENIX -- Derek Norris is a force to be reckoned with these days, thanks to a new plate approach that has him consistently squaring up the ball.

The A's catcher collected three more hits Tuesday and is batting a team-leading .436 with 12 RBIs in 39 spring at-bats -- many of them against right-handers. But when the season begins, Norris is expected to resume the same platoon role he served last year, meaning John Jaso will start most games vs. righties.

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"Certainly there are stretches where you have a lot of righties where it's difficult to have him sit that long, whether it's a day game after a night game," manager Bob Melvin said. "I want to keep him current, but we'll see."

"I'm a firm believer in, if you keep performing and you play to the best of your ability, you're going to force their hand more and more," Norris said. "In the past I've had my fair share of ups and downs -- more downs, but hopefully it's a step in the right direction, and hopefully I can carry this on into the season.

"I'm just continuing things that I fixed last year, most importantly trying to stay balanced and making sure I have my timing going into the season."

Norris has incorporated a leg kick in his stance, having previously struggled to be consistent with his timing because he was too heavy on his front side.

"It kind of counteracts the hands going back," he said. "It helped keep me a little more balanced and a little lighter on my front side, which allows me to slow the game down a little bit and see the ball. The biggest thing for me is not being afraid to get beat. My whole life I've tried to yank stuff on the outer half, trying to pull it to left, and I've reached a mental adjustment to kind of let the ball travel, and not being scared to get jammed is the biggest thing."

"He's had one of the more impressive springs, and we don't look too much at Spring Training numbers, but you can't help but notice the adjustments he's made," Melvin said. "He's got a very consistent approach. He's not trying to do too much as far as pulling the ball. It looks like his swing is shorter, and it might not be, but the way he has his hands now, it looks that way, and he works on it every day. He has a very good understanding now of what his mechanics are.

"He's getting just as good swings off righties as he is off of lefties."

Norris' splits were dramatic last year. He hit .320/.410/.580 in 150 at-bats against left-handers, compared with .149/.261/.184 in 114 at-bats with right-handers on the mound.

"I didn't see them much last year, and when I did, it had been weeks, and that makes it a little more difficult," he said. "I'm not making excuses for myself, but it's definitely nice to see them regularly and to get a rhythm and see both sides."

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.

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