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Posted at 10:13 PM ET, 03/12/2011

The at-bat that produced Derek Norris's walkoff hit

By Adam Kilgore

I'm getting to this late, primarily (and selfishly) because I wanted to watch the San Diego State-BYU college hoops game, which I did over dinner with Jason Benetti, the voice of the Syracuse Chiefs. Had a great time with Benetti, but my enjoyment of the game probably didn't match that of a certain SDSU alum.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about was the end of today's 6-5 victory. Derek Norris came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out and smacked a walk-off single to the warning track against Yankees reliever Daniel Turpen.

Norris's post-game diagnosis of the at-bat was interesting, and also telling. The thing that makes Norris an elite prospect, widely regarded as one of the top 75 or so in baseball, is his advanced approach at the plate. He's got a great eye, but it goes beyond that. Here's how he described his matchup against Turpen, whom he had previously faced in the Arizona Fall League:

"He's got really nasty stuff, so I had to get something over the middle of the plate," Norris said. "He's got too good of a sinker and too good of a slider to try to do something good with that.

"So, the first pitch of the at-bat, he threw a nice two-seam, got it in on my hands. From then on, I said anything on the inner half, let it go, because it's going to run in for a ball. He threw a front-door slider, and I didn't have much of a chance at it. Kind of froze me. So I was just kind of in battle mode. Lucky for me, he hung a sinker over the middle."

And Norris unleashed his whippet-quick swing and sent a drive to left-center. He thought it was headed over the fence off the bat, but the circumstances of the game made it moot. The Nationals had won, improving to 9-5 in the Grapefruit League.

"I had barreled a few balls the last couple games, and not many hits to show for it," Norris said. "It was nice to actually get a ball bounce in.

"When I go to spring training, I don't see it as, 'I'm going to work on this,' " Norris added. "From being in the minor leagues, you don't come into spring training with a job secured. You compete for a job. That's just kind of the mindset I take into it. I'm going to take it like a game-like situation, like it was the playoffs in November."

>>> As you likely noticed, the comment section here has been down all day because we're switching blog software. The good news is, there should be a new and improved comments system. The bad news is, we'll probably be without comments Sunday as well. It's frustrating, but thank you for your patience and thanks, as always, for reading.

By Adam Kilgore  | March 12, 2011; 10:13 PM ET
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