- Associated Press - Saturday, February 20, 2016

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Bud Norris is a lot like his new team, the Atlanta Braves. For several years, they were always respectable, competitive, in contention.

Then last year, not so much.

“I need to get over (2015) completely,” Norris said. “I took a lot of time this offseason to get my body back to where it needs to be - sleeping habits, eating habits and everything. I want to get back to the pitcher that I know I’m capable of being.”

That’s the pitcher Norris was in 2014, when he won 15 regular-season games and earned a postseason victory for the Baltimore Orioles.

The right-hander’s career went the other way last season, starting with a loss of 20 pounds attributed to bronchitis. Norris went on the disabled list, came back and tried to adjust, but he was 2-9 with a 7.06 ERA when the Orioles designated him for assignment in late July. He chose instead to be released, then finished the season with the San Diego Padres.

“This is a very tough game. This is the big leagues; you’ve go to be on top of your stuff every day and for the entirety of the season,” he said. “I battled myself and that was tough. I had a big learning experience from that.”

It was the same year the Braves went 67-95, their worst record in 25 years.

The 30-year-old Norris signed a one-year contract in November.

“They called me early in the free-agency period, and to know that I was wanted was a big part of it for me,” he said. “I’m excited to have a chance to go back out there and pitch.”

He will definitely get that chance with Atlanta, which is looking for at least two starting pitchers as it opened camp this weekend. Of the first five pitchers to start games for the Braves last April, three have been traded and one released. Only Julio Teheran returns.

“We’re hoping he’ll be the Bud Norris of a couple years ago,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Some people need a fresh start, a new place to land.”

Aside from Teheran, who went 11-8 in 33 starts, the returnees include Matt Wisler, who started 19 games, and Williams Perez, who started 20. Mike Foltynewicz and left-hander Manny Banuelos, who also started games for Atlanta last season, are also among the candidates, and Gonzalez said recent draftees should not rule themselves out of consideration. He described the competition as “wide-open” and does not expect to finalize the rotation until late in the spring, perhaps later.

“Off the top of my head I’m just thinking two (openings), but there may be more,” Gonzalez said. “There’s definitely some competition. There’s opportunities here, and we’ll see where we go.”

An opportunity is what Norris needed after 2015.

“Basically I need to get into my routine. My arm was never the problem,” he said. “I need to get back to the guy that I was the other five, six years and take spring training seriously. I expect to be in the rotation; that’s where I want to be to help this team.

“It’s a fresh start,” he added, delivering the classic line at the beginning of spring training, “something I kind of needed after last year.”

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