Norris makes eternity work for him in 14-pitch at-bat

Derek Norris's 14-pitch at-bat Tuesday wore down Tampa Bay pitching.

Derek Norris’s 14-pitch at-bat Tuesday wore down Tampa Bay pitching.

Eight pitches into his fourth inning at-bat Tuesday, Derek Norris asked himself a simple question.

“Will this at-bat never end?’’

It almost never did. With Norris fouling off every pitch that was close to the plate, it was not until the 14th pitch that the battle between Norris and Tampa Bay pitcher Jake Odorizzi reached a conclusion. Norris walked in the longest single plate appearance of the season for the A’s.

And if you think that perhaps it was just Norris feeling that way, consider Odorizzi’s point of view of his fourth-inning ordeal. He called it “an eternity.’’ In all he threw 40 pitches in the inning

As it happens, nothing of substance came from the inning. The A’s did not score after getting two on with one out. Unnoticed in the box score however, they three dozen-plus pitches Odorizzi was forced to throw meant that less than an inning later he was out of the game.

Norris won’t quickly forget the at-bat, which went: Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Strike (looking), Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Ball.

“I was into it, 100 percent,’’ he said. “A couple of times I called time to back out, take a deep breath and stay in the at-bat. I wasn’t up there trying to foul balls off, no matter what it looked like. I was just trying to put together a complete at-bat. I try to do that whether it’s one pitch or 14 pitches.’’

Norris said he’d never been in that kind of at-bat, “except from the other side,’’ when he’d been behind the plate when one of the A’s pitcher would get into a particularly lengthy battle. In those situations he says he’ll go out to talk to his pitcher once or twice, just to break the tension as much as anything.

The Rays’ catcher, veteran Jose Molina, chose not to do that.

“From my experience the pitcher is going to be a little bit frustrated that he can’t close it out,’’ Norris said. So I’d go out to take his mind off things. But (Molina) knows his pitchers a lot better than I do.’’

Norris talks as if he doesn’t walk all that much but he had 15 walks before he walked three times Tuesday and his on-base percentage is 101 points above his batting average (.452 and .351, respectively), so this is someone who knows his way around a base on balls.

“I’m not trying to walk; I’m trying to have a good at-bat,’’ he said. “But last night I really wasn’t feeling all that good.’’

So finishing with three walks has to be a bit of a bonus.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.