Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Interview with Astros Rookie hurler Bud Norris

Obviously this is a Giants blog, but this is a special occasion. Novato, CA native and Cal Poly grad Bud Norris just made his major league debut with the Astros last week, and then got his first win on Sunday against St. Louis. As the Giants are currently in Houston, I thought there was no better time to get Bud on the horn.

DP: You've officially gotten your feet wet in the big leagues. Is it as awesome as you expected it to be?

Bud: Yeah, it has been. I was in Memphis, Tennessee and I got the call, and the first place I was going was Wrigley Field. What better place to play your first couple games and get your feet wet? And obviously that day game on Wednesday was pretty amazing.

It still hasn't set in all the way, but I'm hoping to stay here for a long time and a lot more years down the line.

DP: You've given up only 1 ER so far in 10 innings while striking out 9. It looks like if you had any nerves, they weren't around for long. Has it been tough at all to focus?

Bud: Not really. I've prepared myself pretty well over the years. I've been starting games for a while now, and the other day in St. Louis felt like just another day. I was a little nervous out there when I was stretching in the bullpen, but by the time they did "God Bless America" and The National Anthem, I got a chance to catch my breath again and I just went out there and did my thing. Obviously with a guy like Pudge behind the plate, you don't have to shake him off much, and you just throw your game.

DP: We talked about this a little bit back in spring training, but are you still kind of in awe of the fact that you have beasts like Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Pudge, Tejada, and Roy Oswalt as teammates?

Bud: Spring Training was a good way to sort of meet these guys the first time around, so when I got called up, I already kinda knew them and they knew me a little bit. Now that I'm here with these guys in Houston everyday, it's awesome. All of them have been really great and they haven't played too many pranks on me yet. You know, sitting there with Lance and Roy and doing stuff with all those guys has been great and I definitely appreciate it.

DP: You got called up to start for Roy Oswalt, who got hurt. What's it like come in and step in for a guy like Roy who's been their ace for so many years?

Bud: Obviously he is Roy Oswalt and everyone knows he's one of the most dominant pitchers in the game right now. Just to come in here and help this team any way I can, whether it was out of the bullpen like last week, or picking up a spot start... well that's what I'll do.

I didn't really look at it like I was taking Roy's spot. I just looked at it like I deserved it and we needed some help, so I did the most with it and I'm glad I could help out.

DP: Obviously your fastball and slider have been pretty nasty. You've been working real hard down in Round Rock on your change-up. How confident are you with it now?

Bud: I've had the change for awhile, but it just hasn't been as good as the other two. Scouting directors out there were saying, 'Oh his third pitch needs a lot more work', but yeah, I have a lot more confidence in it this year.

Being healthy all year in Triple A and getting a chance to work on my change every single day in my starts and in bullpen sessions was great. I feel really confident with it now and feel like I can throw it in any situation. Everyone knows you've gotta have that third pitch if you wanna be a starter in this league. So it's been great that the change has progressed nicely and it's been nice to have that third pitch in my arsenal.

DP: Speaking of Round Rock... I just Wikipedia'd it, and I had no idea it was basically right next to Austin. How'd you like Austin? You take in some good Texas music?

Bud: Yeah, Austin's great. Round Rock is about 20 minutes North and I've been down there a time or two. The nightlife is great. They call it 6th Street. They've got all the places lined up there, and there's live music in every single bar. There's a ton of double decker places with open rooftops and it's a lot of fun. There's any kind of vibe that you can get into, and all around, the city's beautiful.

I love the area and it's a great city. It doesn't compare to San Francisco, because SF is a lot bigger, but as far is Texas is concerned, I like it a lot.

DP: So I saw this show on E! called "Baseball Wives" a couple weeks ago. Casey Daigle was your teammate down there in Round Rock, and he's married to Jennie Finch. Did you ever see her around there?

Bud: Daigle's a great guy, and yeah, Jennie would be there a lot. She kinda hid off to the side but she'd always say hello. After the games, their son Ace would always be in the locker room and Casey would buy him candy out of the vending machines.

Jennie is a really nice lady though and really tall and just as beautiful in person as she is on TV.

DP: Houston is a beast of a city, how are you holding up in that brutal humidity and traffic? It's been pretty nice back here in Marin County... haha.

Bud: Yeah, I haven't had to drive down here yet, so luckily I haven't had to deal with the traffic. But the one thing most people don't realize is that Minute Maid is a retractable roof. It's great. So last night it was really hot and humid outside, but we had that roof closed with the A/C on, so it was pretty nice inside. Yeah, but once you get outside those gates, the heat gets turned up on you pretty quick.

It's definitely a plus to have that dome at Minute Maid.

DP: Tell me... have you had any pranks pulled on you yet? Shaving cream pies in the face? Barbie backpacks in your locker?

Bud: Nothin yet really. Mostly because we'd lost 4 or 5 straight there and you kinda have to be winning to mess around like that. The one thing I did get was from LaTroy Hawkins.

Every day while the pitchers stretch, I have to bring out 13 bottles of water so that every pitcher has a bottle of water while they stretch. So, nothing too terrible so far, but I'm sure there's more to come.

DP: You grew up a Giants fan, and we were all hoping you would've been called up for the Astros' series in San Francisco earlier this season. How many ticket requests do you think you're gonna get for that one in 2010?

Bud: I don't know man, but there's gonna be a few. My mom will definitely spread the news around like wildfire, so if I had to put a number on it, I'd guess around 30, but we'll see.

DP: Dude. You struck out Derrek Lee, Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and held Albert Pujols hitless. How sick is that?

Bud: Looking back on it, the first one, the Derrek Lee one, kinda gave me jitters when I had an opportunity to watch the tape later on. Obviously he's one of their best hitters and on fire right now, and I kinda froze him there on a good fastball away.

But you don't really think about it too much. You're just out there doing your job, that's the biggest key. The start on Sunday, being able to get the Cardinals hot lineup and to get Holliday a couple times, and getting out of a tough situation there was pretty good.

The main thing is that you're doing your job. Obviously getting guys like that to swing and miss is pretty tough, so I'll take it any way I can.

DP: I know you just got back from the 'Stros recent roadie, but have you been recognized by anyone in Houston yet?

Yeah, funny thing. They put you up in a hotel here in Houston for the first week, and the guys at the front desk asked me, "Hey are you Bud Norris?" and I was like, "Well, yeah."

They were like, "Welcome, welcome. Helluva game yesterday." Then some guy who had been at the bar and had a few beers came over and shook my hand. It was pretty cool.

But no, nothing too bad yet, but I'm sure in a couple weeks it'll get a lot worse. But hanging out with Pence, I don't think I'll have to worry about myself being recognized as much.

DP: So, I picked you up in 3 fantasy leagues, and our buddy Jimmy used his #1 waiver priority in our pay league to grab you. Thoughts?

Bud: Yeah man. I appreciate it. I hope Jimbo was able to put me in the lineup on Sunday. He would've gotten a nice win with a few K's. The Fantasy stuff is pretty fun. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to play this year, but I'm glad you're all having fun with it.

If you played it next year would you draft yourself No. 1 overall?

Bud: I probably wouldn't dude. I'd have to be smarter than that. I want to win the thing, that's for sure.

DP: I'm trying to come up with a good nickname for you by incorporating Chuck Norris, your name, Houston, and Walker Texas Ranger, but I just can't. Any ideas?

Bud: I haven't gotten anything yet, but I'm gonna be thinking about it now. I'm sure someone will come up with something in the clubhouse pretty soon, but I guess until then, Bud will have to do.

DP: Yeah, I guess you've got a solid baseball name already.

Will we see you at the Peso for Blackout Wednesday?

Bud: Who knows what the plans are, but it could be surprise. But yeah, obviously it would be great to get there and see everyone again. It would definitely be fun.

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