Dodgers re-sign Ronnie Belliard, but want less belly
Get in shape. Or else.
That is what’s implied by the wording in the contract bearing the signature of Ronnie Belliard, who on Tuesday re-signed with the Dodgers for one year to compete with Blake DeWitt and Jamey Carroll for the starting job at second base.
Belliard, 34, will be guaranteed $825,000 this year, but only if he tips the scales at 209 pounds or fewer at some point during spring training, according to multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the clause.
Belliard was one of two players signed by the Dodgers on Tuesday, the other being 40-year-old backup catcher Brad Ausmus, who agreed to a guaranteed one-year, $1-million deal that includes a $1-million mutual option for 2011.
The Dodgers want Belliard get down to 209 pounds because that was how much he weighed at the end of last season, when he played a surprisingly significant part in the their run to the National League Championship Series. Acquired from Washington in late August to be a utility player, he ended up replacing Gold Glover Orlando Hudson in the in the lineup in the postseason.
A career .275 hitter over 12 seasons, Belliard hit .351 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 24 regular-season games for the Dodgers. He hit .300 in the playoffs.
Belliard was out of the Dodgers’ price range for most of the winter but fell back into their laps for significantly less than the $3.85 million they committed over the next two years to the 35-year-old Carroll. Belliard can earn an additional $250,000 in incentives this year based on plate appearances.
For DeWitt, 24, who was pushed to the bench by Hudson last year, the addition of Belliard could result in his being moved out of the opening-day lineup for the second straight year by a late bargain signing. Only this time, DeWitt is unlikely to get a chance to make the major league roster as a bench player because the Dodgers would have a viable veteran option for that role.
“He’s going to have to play,” General Manager Ned Colletti said, indicating DeWitt would start the season at triple A if he is not named the starter.
If DeWitt wins the job, Colletti said the Dodgers could start the season with seven infielders, noting that Carroll and backup shortstop candidate Nick Green can play the outfield. The Dodgers expect that Belliard will occasionally spell Casey Blake at third base and James Loney at first.
Colletti said the team still seeks a veteran fourth outfielder, but would not dismiss the possibility of adding a pitcher before the start of camp.
Ausmus, who started 27 games as Russell Martin’s backup and hit .295 in 95 at-bats last year, will draw a base salary of $850,000 this year. If he or the team declines his 2011 option, he will be paid $150,000.