In the our Stealth Bomber series, we talk to players in the farm system who aren’t yet on the New York radar, but hope one day to be so.

Before his game on Thursday, NoMaas’ Gary Wallace caught up with the Trenton Thunder’s ace reliever, Tim Norton. Tim was drafted out of UConn back in 2006, but has been slowed by a slew of injuries. Despite these setbacks, Norton has posted stellar numbers at every level (2.45 ERA, 5.02 K/BB) and is doing just that in AA this year. In 12.2 innings, Tim has a 0.71 ERA and a 4.79 K/BB with only 8 baserunners along the way.

Gary Wallace: Hi.

Tim Norton: How you doing?

GW: I’m doing alright, how are you?

TN: Pretty good, thanks.

GW: How’d your work go today?

TN: Work went alright. Pretty normal. Played catch. Did some shagging and get ready to play. Nothing too different from the norm.

GW: That’s good. Getting right into things, I haven’t been able to find a recent pitch repertoire. I know you used to throw a splitter but dropped it. Would you mind telling me what you’re throwing right now?

TN: Sure: four-seam fastball, slider and a changeup. It’s changed over the years with my shoulder issues.

GW: Yeah, I’d imagine. How do you like throwing the slider? How does it feel for you?

TN: Feels fine. It’s been pretty good for me. I’ve been throwing it for strikes and making some good two strike pitches with it. It’s still an everyday process to try and keep it in check, but it’s been pretty good for me.

GW: It’s definitely reflected in the numbers this year. You’ve always been productive when you’re on mound — you’ve basically only been stopped by injuries. How tough is that for you?

TN: It’s definitely a pain because I feel like I can do well and progress and make my way towards the big leagues when I’m healthy. There’s been some arm issues over the years and it’s frustrating because I feel like when I’m healthy, I’m pretty good and I can contribute to a team. It is frustrating, but everything feels good now.

GW: Glad to hear it. Does it mean anything to you that the Yankees have stuck with you through this period?

TN: It means a lot. It really does. I don’t know how many organizations would have held on to me and had faith in me to go through all this…shoulder surgeries, tore my lat last year…so it means the world that the trainers and the front office guys stuck with me and just gave me a chance to come back so many times. It definitely means the world to me. Those are some good people.

GW: Last year was the first time you ever recorded an official save. Is there a different mindset for you going into a “save situation?”

TN: I guess I’ve been asked that a few times. Really, I always want to go in there and throw strikes. I want to get ahead and when I get ahead I want to make a pitch and strike them out. I always have that same kind of mindset to get in there and pump the zone and just get ahead. I like to be there in pressure situations, don’t get me wrong. It’s a little more exciting for me, but it’s the same mindset really.

GW: So you kind of feed off the excitement of the situation?

TN: Yeah. I like be in there in big spots with everyone yelling and going crazy and it’s just up to me and the catcher with our guys in the field. I love to be in pressure situations. I think it brings out the best in a lot of people.

GW: When healthy you’ve always put up big strikeout numbers. Is that something you actively go for or is it just something that happens along the way for you?

TN: No, I don’t actively go for it. I kind of pitch towards the strikeout in certain situations. I don’t pitch for the “K”, but when there’s two strikes, 0-2, 1-2, 2-2, I’m trying to make a pitch. Something I consider a good strikeout pitch. It just seems to be coming of late.

GW: Is there anything you wish 23-year old Tim Norton playing for the Staten Island Yankees could have known?

TN: Not really, because I was hurting when I got there. I wish I could have known everything I’ve learned since then — about not just trying to throw the ball as hard as you can and wherever it goes it goes. I wish I wasn’t that stupid, but I feel like I’m pretty good when I’m not hurting. I was hurting when I got there and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. I wish I knew how to stay healthy years before that. I wish I corrected my mechanics years before that. I wish I found a way to do that, but that’s in the past and sometimes it just happens. Some people have the best mechanics in the world and break down, so who knows? I don’t know if it was the mechanics or just my ligaments…I don’t know.

GW: Were your mechanics something the Yankees had you change when you came in or they just kind of let you do your own thing?

TN: Right away.

GW: Right away?

TN: Oh yeah. I think Nardi [Nardi Contreras, Yankees’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator] enforced his “Thirty Day Rule” where you just come in and throw how you throw and he just takes a look at you — doesn’t do anything for thirty days. Then he goes ahead and makes changes. We definitely went ahead and made some changes. I was stepping across my body a lot. I wasn’t saying on line. I was falling off. I was kind of wild at first. We kind of honed it in to where it’s pretty good. We can still do some stuff better, but it’s a lot better than it used to be.

GW: Good to hear. As a fellow pitcher, how impressive to you is what Pat Venditte does?

TN: I play catch with him so I get to see him lefty, I get to see him righty. First of all he goes about his business the right way. He works hard; he’s been working his tail off for years now. To be able to throw righty and lefty is something special and especially what he has with both arms. He’s got a fastball from the right side that gets up there in the low 90s and he spots it up for the most part. Then he’s got a big breaking ball righty and a good changeup. Then he switches lefty and he’s got that sinker and he can get that up there a little bit too. Then that frisbee slider he throws and his changeup…he’s got so many different options…it’s pretty impressive. I know he’s not off to the best start but he’s going to pan out and have a good season. I’m sure of it. He’s too good and takes too much pride in what he does to not have a pretty good season. I’m sure he’ll get going in a little bit.

GW: What is Austin Romine like as a battery partner?

TN: Saying he’s great for me is an understatement. I’ll give you a couple examples of why I love to have him back there. I’ve rarely shook him off in the past few years when we worked together, which has been on and off because of my injuries. It was a few outings ago and there was a guy on second, one out, 1-2 count, and I threw a slider in the dirt and it hit him in the wrist. It hit him bad. He was down for a good minute, maybe even more…not moving too much and the trainer came out. I heard a pop and I thought I broke his wrist or something. He finally got to where he was ready to go again and what does he call? Slider again at the back foot. He didn’t hesitate, he wanted it again. That means a lot to me and having him back there to the such balls to do that, I like a guy like that. He’s great for me and great for the team.

GW: So it’s safe to say there’s a comfort level between you two?

TN: Oh yeah. I’m real comfortable with Romine.

GW: Let’s say hypothetically you’re closing for the Yankees, it’s a home game. You come trotting out of the bullpen; what’s playing in the background?

TN: That’s a very good question. I’ve thought of this quite a bit actually. There are so many good songs, but if there’s one song it would probably be Kid Rock’s “American Badass.”

GW: Pretty solid choice, but I don’t know if they’ll let you play that over the PA.

TN: That’s why I don’t know… if not I’d go with Ted Nugent’s “Strangehold.”

GW: Having them in a strangle hold works too. Thanks a lot, Tim. I’m sure we’ll get nothing but good things from you in the future.

TN: Hopefully, I appreciate it.

Many thanks to Tim for hanging with NoMaas. If he can stay healthy, the Bronx is a realistic destination possibility. To follow Tim, be sure to check out Trenton’s official website.