Sunday, March 25, 2007

Veteran Ronnie Belliard Wins Spot with Nationals

With first baseman Travis Lee's sudden departure from the Nationals, a roster spot has opened for veteran middle infielder Ronnie Belliard, 32, and it will be interesting to see if and when he shakes his reserve status.

Blocking the path of the former Cardinals '06 World Series standout is Cristian Guzman, 29, whose quickness and arm seems to have won him the the starting shortstop position for now -- despite Guzman's sometimes erratic defensive play, mediocre bat and profile as a career reserve.

With former Reds middle infielder Felipe Lopez starting a second, don't be surprised if an opportunity arises for Lopez to replace Guzman at short, allowing Belliard to reclaim his former status as one of the game's superior second basemen.

Remember, it was only two years ago that Belliard hit .284 with 17 homers for Cleveland. Though a leg injury last year has prevented him from aggressive workouts and hindered his ability to lose weight, he'll likely shed some pounds in the opening weeks of the season and may yet impress the coaching staff.