NORMAL — Justin Fletcher came to the Normal CornBelters' training camp last May trying to win a job.

He will return next spring entrenched as the team's second baseman after Normal extended his contract this week.

"He took advantage of what we gave him," Belters manager Brooks Carey said. "He was a big surprise of the season. He will come to spring training with a different mindset. He's the starting second basemen, and he will hit in the top half of the order. He feels pretty good about that."

After batting .236 in part-time action in 2016, Fletcher ranked ninth in the Frontier League with 108 hits and 11th with a .319 batting average.

The Pekin native also hit three home runs, drove in 44 and was second on the team with 18 stolen bases.

Normal has its middle infield secure with Fletcher and all-star shortstop Santiago Chirino both returning.

"It's nice to know those two dudes are back," said Carey.

The Belters also have re-signed relievers Chad Gendron and Jonathan De Marte.

Gendron ended last season as Normal's closer and had five saves. The right-hander fashioned a 0.82 ERA in 21 games and was not scored on over his last 13 appearances, spanning 19 innings.

De Marte had a 5.53 ERA but struck out 36 in 27⅔ innings. The righty's ERA was 2.84 over his final eight appearances.

"De Marte's got the best arm on the team," Carey said. "With a fresh start, he's going to be really good."

Follow Randy Reinhardt on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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