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Belliard gets minor league deal from Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Infielder Ronnie Belliard agreed to a
non-guaranteed, minor league contract with the Washington Nationals
on Sunday that will pay him $750,000 if he makes the team -- which
manager Manny Acta made sound like a foregone conclusion.

Belliard, expected to report to camp Tuesday, provides insurance
at second base, where he started for the St. Louis Cardinals in
last year's World Series. He also can play third, his position on
Acta's winter ball team in the Dominican Republic.

"He gives us depth up the middle, big time," Acta said. "I
had a conversation with him and I already explained to him that I
know that he would like to play every day, but that's not the case
here. He's coming here to be a backup guy. He understood the
point."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this month that authorities
are investigating whether someone attempted to extort money from
Belliard after he allegedly had an affair with that person's
daughter. Belliard is married.

Acta said that is "not an issue. We're satisfied ... that he's
clean."

The 31-year-old Belliard hit a combined .272 with 30 doubles, 13
homers and 67 RBIs with Cleveland and St. Louis in 2006.

"This guy hit .270 last year and played on the World Series
champion club -- I think it's safe to say this guy is on our club,"
Acta said.

In parts of nine seasons with four major league clubs, Belliard
has hit for a .272 average, with 80 homers and 439 RBIs.

"We feel it gives us protection in the middle of the diamond
going into spring training, plus a good right-handed bat off the
bench, which is something this club needed," general manager Jim
Bowden said.

Bowden added that he looks at Belliard as the type of player who
could bring something in return at the trading deadline.