Talented Norfolk Tides have returned to form after a tough early stretch

NORFOLK — Buck Britton didn’t storm into the shower and heave an armful of bats at his players in order to scare them.

With the roster he has, the Norfolk Tides manager knew “Bull Durham” A-ball tactics weren’t necessary.

Instead, Britton used a combination of patience and confidence to allow his team to get back on track.

After a dominant 7-1 start to the season, the Tides lost 10 straight games in April. It turned out not to be a miracle that they ever won seven.

Another four-game hiccup followed, but since then the club has been lights-out entering Wednesday’s scheduled doubleheader against Lehigh Valley.

Heading into the twinbill, necessitated by a rainout of Tuesday’s series opener, Norfolk had won 11 of 15 games.

Britton attributes the turnaround, in part, to improved fielding. At one point, Norfolk had the worst fielding percentage in all of Triple-A. That’s no longer the case.

Britton does not credit himself.

“I’m not huge on having big ol’ team conversations,” the 38-year-old Texan and former Norfolk Tides utilityman said. “We talked to the pitching staff individually, the hitters. I think, No. 1, early on, we were not taking care of the baseball defensively. And when you do that, you put more stress on the arms. You put pitchers in situations that they shouldn’t be in.”

One pitcher who’s been effective in any situation is Cade Povich, a 24-year-old left-hander.

Through eight starts, the former University of Nebraska star is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA, 17 walks and 57 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings.

Povich said no magic switch was thrown to lead to the team’s turnaround.

“Honestly, I don’t think anything’s really been different,” he said. “We know we’re a good team, especially with how we opened. It’s a long season. It happens. But we just stayed true to who we are, and things have since turned back around.”

Billy Cook, a 25-year-old first baseman and corner outfielder, was still at Double-A Bowie when Norfolk hit its 10-game skid.

But since being promoted, Cook has seen the kind of camaraderie usually found in the clubhouses of successful teams.

“They’ve been very welcoming to me, and it seems like a great team atmosphere,” Cook said. “I don’t know what it was like during that tough stretch, but I can say since I’ve gotten here, I’ve felt very welcome and very included. I think that’s something that the team prides themselves on.”

The Tides, the top affiliate in the most highly regarded farm system in baseball, have only gotten better in recent days.

Both outfielder/first baseman Heston Kjerstad and infielder Jackson Holliday — the top prospect in all of baseball — have returned after short stints with the parent Baltimore Orioles.

Holliday, corner infielder Coby Mayo (No. 3), Kjerstad (4), infielder Connor Norby (6), right-hander Chayce McDermott (8) and Povich (9) all rank among the Orioles’ top 10 prospects as ranked by

Those prospects formed part of the core of a team that won both the International League and Triple-A titles last season.

Britton has been pleased to see less heralded players start to produce.

“Everybody’s been kind of like really hyping us, which is good,” Britton said. “We do have a lot of talent.

“The longer your lineup can be in Triple-A, the better it’s going to be. If you have one or two guys you’re expecting to carry the load, well, the other team knows that, too. And so when situations come up, they pitch around them. So collectively, it’s been much better baseball.”

David Hall,