Nationals Notebook

Nationals Trade Belliard to Dodgers

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 31, 2009

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 30 -- Minutes after playing in his final game with the Washington Nationals, Ronnie Belliard stood in the losing clubhouse -- no longer his clubhouse -- and weighed his emotions. He recognized the good and the bad, he said. He was heading into the thick of a playoff race, traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for a minor league pitcher and a player to be named. He was also leaving the team with which he's spent the past three seasons.

"Both ways," Belliard said. "Happy because, hey, I'll be in L.A. The Dodgers are in first place. And I'm sad because I'm going to be leaving a lot of friends."

The Nationals on Sunday afternoon traded Belliard for right-handed pitcher Luis Garcia, 22, a reliever with Los Angeles's Class A affiliate in the Midwest League. The player to be named, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said, also will be a pitcher. Garcia, pitching in Class A, had a 5-3 record with five saves and a 2.92 ERA at the time of the deal. Rizzo said Garcia also has a 94-mph fastball.

With Belliard off the roster, Washington will recall center fielder Justin Maxwell from Class AAA Syracuse. He will join the Nationals in San Diego, where they open a three-game series on Monday.

"It's a good opportunity for Ronnie," Rizzo said. "They came after Ronnie pretty hard."

This season, Belliard's performance improved with more playing time. Stuck behind second basemen Anderson Hernández and Alberto González earlier in the year, the 34-year-old utility infielder felt he deserved a larger role. Only when Jim Riggleman took over as manager did Belliard get that chance. Though he's hitting .247 (186 at-bats) this year, he is hitting .325 since the all-star break.

Belliard is in the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension he signed in July 2007. In 2006, Belliard won a World Series as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals; a photo of the post-game celebration, with Belliard in the middle of an on-field mob, hangs in the lobby at Busch Stadium.

"Hey, I have a chance to win another one," Belliard said. "I think I helped the Cardinals in 2006 -- some lucky hits I got in the playoffs, and you know, I can maybe do that in LA."

At second base, the Nationals will use both González, a righty, and Pete Orr, a lefty. But expect Orr to play second and González to play short in the next few days. Cristian Guzmán, the regular shortstop, is still bothered by a foot injury and needs a few days to rest, Riggleman said.

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