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Ronnie Belliard gets minor league deal from Nats


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Ronnie Belliard gets minor league deal from Nats


VIERA, Fla. -- Second baseman 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.


"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. "It gives us protection in the middle, flexibility in the middle, depth."


The 31-year-old Belliard helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series last season, starting 14 of 16 postseason games.


The Cardinals acquired him from the Cleveland Indians on July 30; he hit a combined .272 with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 67 RBIs with the two teams in 2006.


He provides some insurance for the Nationals, who are shifting Felipe Lopez from shortstop to second base and hoping Cristian Guzman can make a successful comeback after missing all of last season because of right shoulder surgery.


"If [Guzman] doesn't bounce back, we have the flexibility that Felipe could go back to shortstop and Ronnie could play second," Bowden said.


The GM also said he looks at Belliard as the type of player who could bring something in return at the trading deadline.


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


The Nationals also announced that director of player development Andy Dunn resigned. Assistant general manager Bob Boone and other members of the baseball operations staff will take over Dunn's duties for the time being.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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