Belliard must shed pounds to fulfill weight clause

BY foxsports • February 26, 2010

The most expensive two pounds in baseball reside in the general vicinity of Ronnie Belliard's waistline.

A leading candidate to start at second base on opening day for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Belliard must adhere to a weight clause if he wants to activate his $825,000 one-year deal. So far it remains a work in progress.

The Dodgers want Belliard to be at 209 pounds at some point this spring before the contract can become official. That was the weight Belliard was playing at when the Dodgers acquired him late last season from the Washington Nationals.

Belliard reported to spring training this week and said he's close to the goal weight but could be as heavy as 211 pounds.

``I have never come into spring training at (209),'' he said. ``I think I feel good and I look good, so we'll see what happens.''

Belliard doesn't seem too worried about dropping the weight. In fact, he said he doesn't plan on altering his eating habits other than not eating too late at night. He figures he can lose the required weight by running and using the equipment in the Dodgers' exercise room.

``(Belliard) can help this ballclub in a lot of ways,'' manager Joe Torre said. ``I talked to him last year when we made the deal and he came over from Washington, and we made no promises that he was even going to play. We just talked about seeing if we could get him enough at-bats. But all of a sudden, he just caught fire, and we really had no choice (but to play him).''

Belliard had unseated Orlando Hudson at second base in a matter of weeks following his Aug. 30 acquisition. He batted .351 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 24 games with the Dodgers and was the starting second baseman in all eight of the team's postseason games. He batted .300 (9-for-30) in the playoffs.

Belliard's main challenger for the starting second base job this season will be Blake DeWitt, a converted third baseman who was the starter at second base during the Dodgers' 2008 playoff run. If DeWitt does not earn the starting job he will be sent to Triple-A to make sure he is getting regular at-bats.

Utility man Jamey Carroll also will be given a chance to earn the starting role at second.

But the Dodgers already are concerned about Belliard's durability so playing more than 130 games seems unlikely.

``We know he can play regularly for a short period of time, because he did that last year,'' Torre said. ``But there were probably some days when we put him out there that we probably should have sat him down.''

He wasn't around very long last year, but he was around long enough to feel heartbroken when the Dodgers lost in the NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies.

``This is my 12th year in the big leagues, and I have done a lot of things,'' Belliard said. ``I have been to a World Series and an All-Star game. I'm happy with myself. But I will be more happy if we can do what we weren't able to finish last year.''

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