Nationals Notebook

Trade to Los Angeles Energizes Former National Ronnie Belliard

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009

As if hoping self-evidence would sell his point, Ronnie Belliard, while talking on Wednesday afternoon, pointed to his left, then his right. The locker right next to Belliard's belonged to Jim Thome. The locker two down belonged to Manny Ram?rez. In the visiting manager's office, Joe Torre was meeting with his coaching staff.

"It's unbelievable," Belliard said. "Unbelievable. Seeing guys that are going to be in the Hall of Fame soon."

Since landing in prosperity, traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 30, Belliard has met the demands of his surroundings -- and perhaps, he acknowledged, the surroundings have helped raise his game.

After months of uninspired play with the Washington Nationals, Belliard, since arriving in Los Angeles, has hit .322 in 59 at-bats, with a .610 slugging percentage. He's homering and driving in runs with about three times the frequency as he did with the Nationals.

Often lost in the middle infield shuffle with Washington -- Belliard started just 20 of the team's first 87 games -- Belliard on Wednesday started his 16th game with Los Angeles. He's pushing two-time all-star Orlando Hudson for playing time.

"I think I follow the group," Belliard said. "They're having fun. It's not like we weren't having fun over there, but sometimes you lose 10 in a row, eight in a row -- it's hard. This club is in first place."

He's Been Here Before

Twice before, Jim Riggleman has managed a 100-loss team. His 1993 San Diego Padres, decimated by a fire sale, went 61-101. Last year's Seattle Mariners, whom Riggleman guided for the final months on an interim basis, also finished 61-101. Those are among just 26 teams league-wide that have lost 100 or more in the past 25 years.

But Riggleman, asked to compare this year's Nationals with other dreadful clubs of his, said that not all triple-digit losers are created equal.

"Every team that has a losing record or a really bad record, there can be different stages of where you think you are at with that team," Riggleman said.

"And I've said it many times, and only time will tell if I'm right, but I think this ballclub is not that far away. As far as those other clubs I've managed, you know, in San Diego in the early '90s we had what was termed as 'the fire sale,' so we literally, for quite some time, [were using] all of our Class AAA players, with the exception of Tony Gwynn. But this ballclub here has got a lot of keepers, so I really think that it's a very talented group."

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