WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Ronnie Belliard picked a bad time to be a free agent. While the winter market was flush with big bucks, it was also flush with second basemen. So by the time Belliard finally landed with a club, it was with a Minor League deal with the Washington Nationals, three days into Spring Training camp. It seemed an odd fate for a man who was an All-Star for the Indians just three years ago and who had helped St. Louis win a World Series title in October.
"Things happen in baseball," said Belliard, who returned to Chain of Lakes Park for Friday's scheduled game against the Tribe. "Anything can happen, and that's why it's a great sport." Though he came to Nationals camp as a non-roster invitee, Belliard is assured of a job. He'll bounce around all the infield positions -- yes, even shortstop and first base -- for manager Manny Acta's club. Of course, he'd rather be an everyday guy than a utility man, but Belliard still sees himself getting plenty of playing opportunities in the National League. "You can pinch-hit, you can do the double-switch," he said. "I'm gonna have my chances here." Belliard wasn't given a chance to resume his starting second-base role with the Cardinals, who had acquired him from the Indians for Hector Luna shortly before July's trading deadline. His time with the Cardinals ended with baseball's greatest prize, but Belliard didn't have the smoothest of tenures in St. Louis. After batting .291 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 93 games with the Tribe, he hit just .237 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 54 regular-season games with the Cards. Belliard did, however, play a fundamentally sound second base. And in the playoffs, he had six hits in the four-game National League Division Series against the Padres and six hits in the seven-game NLCS against the Mets. At the time they traded him, the Indians had said they would consider renewing ties with Belliard. Alas, their Nov. 8 trade to acquire Josh Barfield from San Diego nullified their interest. Belliard thought, perhaps, the Cardinals would be interested in keeping him around with a multiyear deal. But they weren't biting.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.