OAKLAND -- Throwing out a potential base stealer is nothing new to A's catcher Derek Norris. But when he threw out Orioles pinch-runner Xavier Avery at second with two outs in the top of the ninth to preserve the A's 3-2 win Friday night, Norris broke new ground."I've never ended a game like that before, so that was a first," Norris said before Saturday night's game against Baltimore. "A lot of adrenaline, a lot of excitement. It was something pretty cool." Norris knew what he was facing when Avery pinch-ran after Matt Wieters led off with an infield single against closer Grant Balfour. "I've actually played against him for the last four years," Norris said. "When I was with the Nationals, we played Baltimore -- all in the Minor Leagues. Knew he could run. Took a mound visit, told Balfour, 'Just mix your looks. Make sure you don't give him the time to go.'" Balfour struck out pinch-hitter Endy Chavez then retired Mark Reynolds on a fly ball to left. Chris Davis, who had hit his 26th home run of the season in the fifth inning, fell behind Balfour 1-2. On Balfour's next pitch, Avery took off for second, and Norris gunned him down. "That's kind of what shocked me the most was the fact that virtually they took the bat out of his hand," Norris said of Davis. "There were two strikes, but a guy like that who can change the ballgame with one swing of the bat, you'd think that they'd go ahead and let him swing with two strikes, but I'll let them run." Norris said Avery tested him on the base paths plenty of times in the Minors. "I don't know what the score is, but it's 1-0 up here," Norris said. A's manager Bob Melvin said Norris has had a few stretches where he's been "out of rhythm a little bit" throwing as he's adjusted to sharing time behind the plate. But he showed off his gun and his accuracy Friday night. "He has the ability to be an all-around catcher," Melvin said. "He's going to receive, he's going to block and throw, and he's definitely going to hit. He's got a chance to be one of the few catchers, like a Wieters, an all-around guy that has the ability to do everything."
A's rack up double plays to keep momentum
OAKLAND -- The trend started in the top of the fourth inning Friday night against Baltimore when the A's turned an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play -- third baseman Josh Donaldson to second baseman Adam Rosales to first baseman Chris Carter.The A's turned another double play in the fifth, this time shortstop Stephen Drew starting it and Rosales making the turn again at second. Then another in the sixth on a ground ball to Donaldson. And yet another in the seventh on a grounder to Drew. The A's turned four double plays and won by a lone run, 3-2. "Very important double plays last night," Drew said before Saturday night's game against the Orioles. "It was good. It brought a lot of excitement. I think it kept the momentum going for us." It also killed whatever momentum the Orioles built. "When they feel like they're having some kind of momentum, get a couple of guys on, but then you get that ground ball, two quick outs, that's a pitchers dream right there to have that defense behind him," Rosales said. What makes those four double plays more impressive is the fact that Donaldson is a converted catcher and Rosales' natural position is shortstop. "He's got great hands, good footwork and good arm strength," Drew said of Rosales. "When he's in there, he's kind of fun to watch. He brings a lot of energy to the field." Rosales platoons at second base with Cliff Pennington, who has played almost his entire career at shortstop but switched positions when the A's acquired Drew from Arizona and sent starting second baseman Jemile Weeks to Triple-A Sacramento in late August. Both Pennington and Rosales, naturally, have exceptionally strong arms that help them when turning double plays. "That's something we looked at originally when Jemile went down. We felt like Pennington would be able to do it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Rosales has done it before at second base. Both of them have great arms and they both turn the double play very well. I'm pleasantly surprised to see how well Pennington has played at second base. When you've been a shortstop as long as he has, those are completely different angles that you're looking at, different hops, all of the above, and he's taken to it.
"He looks like he's a natural second baseman."Donaldson struggled defensively at times in two earlier stints with the A's, but since being recalled on Aug. 14, he has been solid in the field. "I don't think he played poor defense, even his first two times up," Melvin said. "He made a couple errors there toward the end before he got sent down, but when you're not hitting, you're hitting .130 or .140 like he was, that can't help but kind of filter in there a little bit. "Now that he's swinging the bat really well it's just fun for him to play, and he's just letting his athletic ability take over. He's one of the few guys that actually could play anywhere on the field, I believe. He is a very good athlete."
Left-handed reliever Jordan Norberto, who is on the disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis, said he hopes to be able to start playing catch next week. It's still unknown if he will be able to recover in time to help the A's if they reach the postseason, manager Bob Melvin said."Once he starts throwing I'm not sure how long it would take to get him in game shape and how we would do that," Melvin said. "I'm not going to speculate as far as that goes. We'll just see what the timing is when he can start playing catch." Norberto is 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 39 appearances and 52 innings this season. Melvin said it would be a big loss for the A's if Norberto can't return. "We do feel like we have good depth in our bullpen, but man, he was a major contributor," Melvin said. "He got righties out, he got lefties out, he gave us length. He pitched late in games, picked up a starter who was struggling early. He was as versatile of a guy as we have. On top of that he throws from the left side and has the ability to get right-handed hitters out. If he doesn't pitch again, he's already had a spectacular year for us." Infielder Eric Sogard, who is on the DL with a strained back, has begun jogging.
"Until he starts doing baseball activities, it's tough to forecast whether or not we have enough time for that one as well," Melvin said.
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.