Norton underwent right knee surgery on April 2 and rejoined the team Thursday in Lake Buena Vista.
"I got here at about 1 p.m. and for the first hour and a half there wasn't a nice thing said to me," said Norton, who is one of the more popular players in the clubhouse due to his dry wit.
Norton had a seven-game rehab stint with Double-A Montgomery, where he batted .280 with a pair of doubles and five RBIs. He last played in the Southern League for Birmingham (White Sox) in 1996.
Asked about the differences he noticed from when he first played in the Southern League and today, Norton gave the question some thought then answered.
"The bus would go 20 miles per hour up the hill, so that would make a five-hour bus ride six or seven," Norton said. "... Difference with players; everybody has tattoos; every other guy had his laptop with wireless Internet in the clubhouse. Ping pong, smoothies, fruit smoothies with yogurt."
Norton said, "the Southern League is pretty nice."
"I remember we stopped at a little convenience store and I asked if we were in Tennessee or Alabama and she said we were in Mississippi," Norton said. "It was Something-ville, Mississippi. And we had our strength coach there, who really wants everybody eating well. And I made sure I got chicken tenders and corn dogs and ate them in his face."
Norton concluded the experience in Montgomery "was fun."
"I enjoyed being down there with the guys asking questions," Norton said. "I think the most common question was would this starting pitcher be able to last in the big leagues. Things like that where I'd compare to here. They have a good team."
Norton said he is closer to finding his swing than where he found himself a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm not saying I'm back to where I was last year," Norton said. "But what was encouraging yesterday hitting at the complex, my swing was a lot shorter. Balls were coming off the bat a lot better. ... With me it's just trying not to be too hard on myself after having that long of a layoff. It's a lot better than it was when I left for Montgomery."
Third baseman Akinori Iwamura is making progress in his comeback from the right oblique strain injury that put him on the 15-day DL on April 24.
"This coming Wednesday we should be able to know if we can pop him into a game or not," Maddon said. "He's taking BP against coaches right now. Everything is going really well, there have been no setbacks. So we're thinking at the beginning of next week we can find out when he can start participating in a game situation and then accelerate it from there."
Down on the farm:
Right-hander Jason Hammel fell to 1-5 on the year with Triple-A Durham after allowing six runs on five hits and four walks in a 7-4 Bulls loss to Pawtucket Wednesday... Ruddy Lugo struck out two in one inning of work; he has a 2.25 ERA after three outings... Ben Zobrist and Shawn Riggans each had home runs Wednesday; Riggans is hitting .295 with four home runs and 14 RBIs.
This and that:
Friday night's game at Tropicana Field will begin at 6:40 p.m. ET to accommodate "Legends of Wrestling" Night. The Rays will be bringing in a dozen former World Wrestling Entertainment stars and all will be making appearances before, during and after the game in three special matches...Jonny Gomes will be appearing at the Checkers restaurant located at 1972 Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, Clearwater, on Saturday, May 19 from 10:30 a.m. to noon... The Rays and Tropicana Field will host the Rays High School All-Star Classic May 20 approximately 90 minutes after the completion of the Rays vs. Marlins game. Teams from Hillsborough and Pinellas County will be composed of 20 position players and five pitchers per team; each team will consist of their respective all county teams.
The Rays will welcome the Marlins to Tropicana Field Friday night for a 6:40 contest. Right-hander Edwin Jackson will start for the Rays and will be opposed by right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim.