NORMAL — Billy Horn has survived slow starts before, and the first-year Normal manager is confident his CornBelters are well equipped to do so again.
Normal holds a 2-7 record after a 1-5 road trip and opens a six-game homestand at the Corn Crib on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. against Joliet.
"Last year at Long Island I think we were six under .500 going into August and we made it to the league finals," Horn said Monday. "Two years ago at Ottawa we started 3-9 and ended up winning the league championship.
"So there's no panic, no fret, no worry. I believe in my guys, and I know we're going to turn it around pretty quick."
The Belters have prevailed in just one of six one-run games.
"We've outhit teams almost every game," said Horn. "It's getting that timely hit late in the ballgame."
Fletcher sidelined: Second baseman Justin Fletcher was placed on the 7-day injured list last week with a hamstring strain. Horn hopes to have the Pekin native back in the lineup by Friday.
Normal also has been without center fielder Nick Cain, who had four hits, including a home run, while nursing a sore oblique.
"He roughed through the first couple games, but we thought it was best to give him a week or so rest," Horn said. "He should be good to go on Tuesday."
Beckwith signed: Tyler Beckwith, who spent time with the Washington Nationals high Class A team last season, will start at third base for Normal on Tuesday after recently being signed.
"He's a true third baseman. He can play shortstop, second base and the outfield," said Horn. "I've heard a lot of good things about him. He's got a couple years in affiliated ball. Once Fletcher gets back, that should solidify the infield."
Chirino chugging along: Belters second baseman Santiago Chirino, the reigning Frontier League batting champion, is off to a hot start. His .421 batting average ranks fourth in the league.
Right fielder Derrick Loveless is sixth at .378. First baseman Chris Iriart and catcher Tanner Lubach are tied for second league-wide with 10 RBIs.
Kozikowski dealt: Normal has traded reliever Neil Kozikowski to Schaumburg for a player to be named later. Horn expects to fill that roster spot with a reliever who possesses late-inning caliber talent by Tuesday.
"I had a couple major league scouts who feel he (Kozikowski) is better suited to be a starter. The way our rotation is pitching, I don't seem him cracking our rotation," said Horn. "I felt it was a better move for him and our ballclub."
Saturday thriller: Normal's lone win on the six-game road trip was a wild one. The Belters were three outs from a win in the second seven-inning game of a doubleheader carrying a 5-3 edge into the bottom of the seventh against Evansville.
A walk and a home run later and the Otters had tied the score. Both teams scored one run in the ninth and 10th innings.
Normal then tallied two in the top of the 11th for a 9-7 edge. Evansville pushed across one run and had the tying run at second base with one out before Mark Hendricks nailed down the much-needed win with two strikeouts.