JUPITER, Fla. • Even though the Cardinals more or less evened the score with righthander Bud Norris as the years went on, the diehard fans won’t forget the start of Norris’ career with the Houston Astros.
His first big-league win was 2-0 on Aug. 2, 2009 at Busch Stadium. Later in the season, Norris beat the Cardinals 3-0.
The next year, he extended his winning streak to four games against them and at the end of his first 28 innings against the Cardinals, he had allowed just one earned run. Slugger Albert Pujols took to calling him “Chuck Norris,” after the famed martial artist.
“I played with Albert last year with the Angels and we had some good jokes in the clubhouse about it,” said Norris. “(The Cardinals) definitely knew when I was coming into town. It was no easy task getting through that lineup but some of my best games were in Busch Stadium and I won’t forget them.”
Norris won’t have to face the Cardinals this season. He became their newest member officially on Wednesday, signing a one-year contract with incentives.
“I’m honored to be here,” said Norris, who will be 33 next month. “This a world-class organization. Every time I went into St. Louis and I had my ‘A’ game, I think the fans and the organization get a little credit because it brought out the best in me. There’s no place like Busch Stadium. There’s no place like the fan base there.
“They truly appreciate the game. I remember in ’09 and ’10, (Adam) Wainwright and (Chris) Carpenter getting down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning and people putting their scorebooks down to get up and give them a standing ovation.
“That tells you how much the fans really care and live vicariously through the team.”
After winning five of his first six decisions against the Cardinals, whom he has beaten more than any other team, the Cardinals rallied to cut the margin to 8-7 although Norris still had a good 3.44 earned run average against them.
“They’d seen enough of me,” said Norris. “They beat me a couple of times in Houston. I gave up a couple of late hits, with Jon Jay being one of them. But I remember going to St. Louis and always throwing the ball well.”
Pressed into service as a closer early last year when Huston Street and Cam Bedrosian were hurt, Norris recorded 19 saves in 23 opportunities for the Angels but rejoined the rotation late in the season.
He is here as insurance for the rotation and a possible late-inning man in the bullpen if needed. But he would rather start
“I know I can pitch in a lot of roles with a lot of versatility,” he said. “But the excitement of possibly being stretched out and the possibility of making a rotation again. . . in my heart of hearts I believe I can do that. It’s the toughest position in the game.
“I know they need a little back-end help here and I’m great in the bullpen and can get a lot of outs in a lot of different ways.
“I do enjoy closing. It’s something I got a real good taste of last year and I think I can really excel if that’s where they want me to go. But there’s a part of me that still thinks I can start.”