ANAHEIM — To hear Angels pitcher Bud Norris tell it, the story of how he became a closer is simple. He began the spring in an unusual position — a veteran starter with a minor league contract and no defined role — and seized an unexpected opportunity.
Twenty days into the regular season, the Angels’ ninth inning had become a chasm. Plans A, B and C collapsed when injuries befell Huston Street, Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Bailey. Suddenly the team had no closer. Almost by default, in his 240th career game, Norris entered a one-run game in the ninth inning April 22 and logged his first career save. He never looked back.
The Angels “had plenty of guys in the mix — all the articles that were written, which was fine — they had their guys templated to do some things,” Norris recalled. “It’s hard to speculate in spring training what’s going to take course over a six-month season.”
It’s an accurate narrative, true to the facts and to Norris’ supreme self-confidence. Proving people wrong, he said, drove him from the moment he was drafted as a 21-year-old.
About that draft.
Norris never finished a game in 2006, his final season at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Yet this was the role Houston Astros scouts recommended to General Manager Tim Purpura when Norris was selected in the sixth round of that year’s amateur draft. Norris reported to the short-season New York-Penn League and recorded a couple saves. Before April, those were the only saves of his professional career.
A funny thing happened on the way to Norris’ destiny as the Astros’ closer: the kid decided he was going to be a starter.
“I got told that’s all I was going to do. I got projected as a back-end bullpen guy with a bulldog approach, a good fastball and a good slider,” Norris recalled. “I thought that was a fair assessment. Once again, I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong for a long time.”
Purpura, who oversaw the Astros’ only World Series appearance in 2005, didn’t…