The Detroit Tigers will be without Daniel Norris to start the season. Following a start where he only lasted 26 pitches, Norris went to a back specialist and was diagnosed with non-displaced fractures in the spinal process according to team trainer Kevin Rand. Rand was also quoted as saying "it sounds a lot worse than it is."
Norris was scratched from a start earlier in the spring for the same symptoms but still made a start this past Tuesday. Due to lower back stiffness, Norris didn't make it out of the first inning. He gave up two walks and three hits -- one of which being a home run -- which yielded three runs in what would end up being a 16-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
After overcoming cancer this offseason, Norris was expected to compete for the fifth starters job. Instead, it appears that job will be settled between Shane Greene, Buck Farmer, and fellow lefty Matt Boyd.
Of the three, Boyd has so far been given the most work in spring training, with 17 innings pitched over five starts. He seems to be the most likely candidate. Stacked against his favor though, is the fact that he has a 1.41 WHIP, giving up 19 hits and five walks over those 17 innings.
Greene has probably had the best spring of the three, but it's not that much better than Boyd. He has appeared in four games, making two starts with a WHIP of 1.17 over 13.2 innings.
Depending on how Norris' rehab goes, the fifth spot in the rotation could be waiting for him upon his return. According to Rand, Norris won't resume any baseball activities and has been put on a timetable. However, according to Brad Ausmus, with an injury of this type, apparently a lot depends on whenever Norris "feels better." While "it doesn't seem to be anything long term," the 'feel better' prognosis can be somewhat worrying.