3/20/2013 6:49 P.M. ET
Astros tab Norris as Opening Day starter
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It will be veteran right-hander Bud Norris throwing the Astros' first pitch as an American League club.
Manager Bo Porter announced on Wednesday that Norris will get the ball when the Astros open the season against the Rangers on March 31 at Minute Maid Park in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Porter laid out the rotation for the entire opening series, with right-hander Lucas Harrell starting on April 2 and veteran right-hander Philip Humber going on April 3.
The Opening Day nod will be the first for Norris, who follows Wandy Rodriguez (2012), Brett Myers (2011) and Roy Oswalt (2003 to 2010). The Astros have lost six consecutive openers.
"I'm very honored," Norris said. "It's something I've been working for my whole career, something everyone works for their whole career. It's a childhood dream to have an Opening Day game like that. I know Lucas had a great spring and he can pitch. It was either/or. I wasn't mad if he got it or whatnot. I'm excited to go out there and give this team every opportunity to go out there and win, and very excited to do it in Houston on a nationally televised game."
Norris, 28, was the most logical choice. He's the Astros' longest tenured starter, and the team took into consideration his stellar numbers at home last year. Porter said that Norris will get three extra home starts prior to the All-Star break if he stays healthy and takes his turn every five games.
Norris went 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA and held opponents to a .199 batting average in 11 starts at Minute Maid Park last year while going 3-12 with a 6.94 ERA and .293 average against in 18 road starts.
"Bud Norris has done everything we've asked him to do from the time I've taken the job, to being that leader that this organization needs," Porter said. "You look at his home and road splits and how well he's pitched at Minute Maid Park and how well he's pitched in big games … I think he gets up for big games.
"Even as far back as last year, he had the second-best ERA in all of baseball pitching at home. … It was all those factors, combined with the history that goes with it."
Norris went 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA in 29 starts last year, getting off to a terrific start before losing 12 consecutive decisions in 18 starts while battling injuries. He finished strong, ending the season with 13 1/3 scoreless innings pitched.
"I think he's earned it," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "His last outing was very good, and he's proven he can pitch at Minute Maid and pitch in big games, and he's been around this organization. He deserves to be our Opening Day starter, and I think everybody in the organization would support that. I would hope he goes out and has a game that I know he's capable of having and gives us a 'W' on that opening night."
Porter called Harrell, who went 11-11 last year and was named the team's Pitcher of the Year, into his office on Wednesday and told him Norris was getting the Opening Day nod. Harrell patted Norris on the rear on the way out of the office as a sign of support.
"He's earned it. He's been here the longest and proven he can do it," Harrell said. "What better guy to lead us?"
Norris said that getting the ball on Opening Day will be a dream come true.
"You don't have an opportunity all the time to throw the first pitch of the season," he said. "When I mean childhood dreams come, that's truly what it is. I remember listening on the radio Opening Day, and it's a big anticipation thing. Just to know that day is when I get to go out there and play baseball in the city of Houston, it's truly exciting, and I'm honored."
If he stays on turn and healthy, Norris will follow his Opening Day assignment by pitching on April 7 against the A's at home before making his first road start on April 13 against the Angels in Anaheim. The Astros open the season with 15 consecutive games against AL West foes.
Norris said his family, which lives in Northern California, will be in town for the opening series of the weekend, and the fact that he's going to start the season opener will make the weekend even more special.
"I'm extremely honored and humbled by the experience," he said. "I've always been the player chasing the lead dog, so I'm excited. This is something I've always wanted. I talked to Roy Oswalt when I was a young player, and it's an honor. You want to prove to your team and your city you've earned it. I think I have, and I'm excited to go forward. I'm hoping this is one of many, but I'm going to take this and enjoy it."