A Thinner Belliard in the Making

The skinny on Ronnie Belliard's new contract is that his less-than-svelte frame is what probably led him back to the Dodgers. Belliard might have closed out 2009 with a flourish, but the Dodgers were in no hurry to re-sign the veteran infielder. It wasn't that the team didn't like Belliard, but with its cautious approach to spending, multiple years or big dollars weren't in the cards.

Belliard, though, wasn't able to pull in the big money he was looking for on the open market, and part of that reason could have been because of his heft. In fact, the Dodgers reportedly have a weight clause in their one-year, $825,000 deal with infielder.

Belliard must be at 209 pounds or lower at some point during spring training in order for the contract to be valid. That was the weight the 34-year-old played at with the Dodgers after he was acquired in a late-season trade with the Nationals.

His diminished range at second base has been noticed, but it was his ability to hit that gave the Dodgers a late-season spark. He batted .351 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 24 regular-season games, and he hit .300 in the playoffs.

Whoever wins the Dodgers' second base job, be it Belliard, Blake DeWitt or Jamey Carroll, is going to face this comparison: Orlando Hudson won the Gold Glove at second with the Dodgers last season.

NOTES, QUOTES


--C Brad Ausmus finalized the long-awaited deal that will bring him back to the Dodgers for a second season. A backup to Russell Martin in 2009, Ausmus batted .295 in 95 at-bats. The 40-year-old gets a guaranteed $1 million with a mutual option for 2011.

--OF Timo Perez, who hasn't played in the major leagues since 2007 and played last season in independent baseball as well as in Mexico, signed a minor league deal. Perez, who hit .389 in 29 games with Detroit in 2007, was given an invitation to the Dodgers' major league spring training camp. The left-handed hitter has batted .269 over eight seasons with four big-league teams.

--LHP John Koronka, who has made 30 major league starts over four seasons, was signed to a minor league contract and invited to major league spring training. Koronka, 29, started two games for the Marlins last season and lost them both. Most of his major league experience came in 2006 with the Rangers, when he went 7-7 with a 5.69 ERA.

--INF Nick Green remains the leading candidate to back up Rafael Furcal at shortstop. Green, who played 103 games for the Red Sox last season, still must overcome back surgery in November to make the roster. He was signed to a minor league deal, and he would make $550,000 plus incentives if he can make the major league roster.

--INF Blake DeWitt now knows that the stakes will be high this spring training as he tries to win the second base job. GM Ned Colletti acknowledged that if DeWitt isn't the full-time second baseman on opening day, he would instead start the season at Class AAA Albuquerque, where he can get regular playing time. He will battle with Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll.

--INF Mark Loretta retired after playing his final season with the Dodgers in 2009. His most memorable moment of the season came on a pinch-hit single that gave the Dodgers the walk-off victory over the Cardinals in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. Loretta will join the Padres' front office.

BY THE NUMBERS: 27 -- Starts at catcher for then-40-year-old Brad Ausmus last season as a backup to Russell Martin. Ausmus, who batted .295 in 95 at-bats, was re-signed by the Dodgers and will make a guaranteed $1 million.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We got a professional hitter, as he showed the last month of the season and into the playoffs. He's not afraid of the moment, and he just adds to our versatility." -- GM Ned Colletti, after Ronnie Belliard was re-signed as a utility infielder and potential starter at second base.

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