Dodgers re-sign Belliard
In a surprise move, the Dodgers re-signed veteran infielder Ronnie Belliard to a one-year contract on Tuesday, shoring up the middle of their infield by retaining a player who proved to be a pivotal acquisition for them late last season.
The infielder's $825,000, one-year contract, which was announced Tuesday, will become guaranteed only if he reports to spring training at 209 pounds or less. If he reports at over 209 pounds, the Dodgers can release him and owe only termination pay.
Belliard, 34, came to the Dodgers in a three-player trade with Washington on Aug. 30 after he cleared waivers. He hit .351 and posed a .398 on-base percentage, performing so well that three-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson, who had appeared in the All-Star Game just weeks before Belliard's arrival, eventually was relegated to the bench while Belliard took over as the club's primary second baseman.
Belliard started all eight of the Dodgers' postseason games at second base, hitting safely in each one.
"He was vital to the success of our club when you see what he did for us in September and even in October,'' Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "He filled in at third base when Casey [Blake] got hurt there, and he also picked us up when Orlando scuffled a bit at the end. He isn't afraid of the big moment or afraid to compete in tough situations, whether it's coming off the bench as a pinch hitter or starting and playing a lot.''
Belliard went into the winter seeking a $2 million deal for 2010 after finishing out a two-year, $3.5 million deal he originally signed with the Nationals. But over time, when he got no takers, that price came down to the point that the Dodgers could afford to re-sign him despite the club's current financial constraints.
Belliard can play first, second or third, but most of his starts figure to come at second, where the immediate future of promising youngster Blake DeWitt has been cast into doubt yet again. Until Tuesday, DeWitt had all but been named the everyday second baseman for the upcoming season, just as he was a year ago until the Dodgers signed Hudson just days after the start of spring training.
DeWitt, 24, who has spent the past two seasons shuttling back and forth between the majors and Triple A, now figures to compete not only with Belliard, but also with newly signed, veteran utility man Jamey Carroll. Neither Belliard nor Carroll can start every day, but because DeWitt is at such an important stage of his development, he likely will begin the season in the minors if he doesn't earn the starting job in spring training. That would leave it to Belliard and Carroll to split time at second base.
DeWitt also is a left-handed hitter, while Belliard and Carroll hit from the right side.
"We needed to build our bench, and we need to see how second base shakes out,'' Colletti said. "Blake DeWitt will obviously have a chance to make the club. We need a left-handed bat, and he is going to have a chance to play. But in my mind, he is going to have to start rather than be a role player because he needs at-bats.''
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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