DETROIT (AP) — Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris says baseball kept him sane after a jarring medical diagnosis.
The Detroit left-hander announced in a message on Twitter and Instagram on Monday that he kept playing last season after finding out he had a cancerous growth on his thyroid. The 22-year-old Norris said the growth was deemed malignant but he was told by a doctor that he could wait until the end of the season to have it removed.
“I was given the option to shut my year down & get it removed immediately,” Norris posted. “However, seeing another doctor that determined I could wait until the end of the season reassured my gut feeling. Just keep playing.”
Norris went 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA this year in 13 starts for Toronto and Detroit. He was traded to the Tigers in late July as the most highly regarded prospect in the deal that sent David Price to the Blue Jays.
“We’re big fans of Daniel here,” Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava said. “Short of trading him for David Price, I don’t think we ever would have done something like that. He’s got a great future. It sounds like he’s got good care and it seemed like he was confident that he was going to be fine, which is great.”
Al Avila, who was promoted to replace Dave Dombrowski as Detroit’s general manager shortly after the trade deadline, said in a text message that the Tigers knew about Norris’ condition when they acquired him and expect him to recover in full.
“It’s time to get this thing out,” Norris said in his social media post. “So please keep me in your thoughts & prayers as I undergo surgery & come out 100% cancer free!”
Norris said he found out about the growth a few months ago, after he was optioned to Triple-A. He said it was alarming to hear the growth was malignant, but he kept playing.
“Baseball kept me sane,” he said. “Regardless of the results on the field, I forgot about it when I was between the lines. ... I was just trying to get the heck out of AAA. ... I was revived with an opportunity, a blessing from God, with the Tigers.”
Norris made eight starts down the stretch for the Tigers.
Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey was Norris’ teammate all the way through Toronto’s minor league system, with both players making their major league debut in September, 2014. The pair broke camp with the Blue Jays this April but both were later demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
“I knew that something was up because I remember him telling me that he went to the doctors for something in his throat,” Pompey said before the Blue Jays hosted Kansas City in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. “I didn’t think anything of it. He said not to worry about it and now, obviously, it’s escalated into something else.”
Several other Blue Jays, including manager John Gibbons and catcher Russell Martin, said they had no idea what Norris had been dealing with.
“He’s a great person,” Martin said. “He’s one of my favorite young players that I’ve ever been around. He has his priorities and values in the right place.”
Gibbons called Norris “a special kid” and wished him a speedy recovery.
“That kind of thing, it gets your attention,” Gibbons said. “It kind of puts things in perspective. We’re worried about winning a huge baseball game, no doubt about it. But here’s a guy that you’ve had contact with that’s fighting something a heck of a lot harder than this.”