Belliard Seeks More Than A Slim Chance
Ronnie Belliard ... bigger things ahead?
Ronnie Belliard ... bigger things ahead?
Indians Ink
Posted Mar 23, 2005


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Ronnie Belliard figures being slightly slimmer could fatten up his production this season.

"I didn't lose any weight, who are you kidding?" said the jovial second baseman after a morning workout at the Cleveland Indians' training camp. "I told you last year it doesn't make any difference to me what I weigh as long as I get the job done.

"Did I have a good season? I think so. They wanted me back, so I must have done something right. I could have been better and that's what I'll try to do this year, improve on what I did. But I think I showed people in Cleveland I could play."

When told that he at least looks like he is in better shape, Belliard reluctantly agreed. "I lost a little bit around my tummy," he said. "After last season, they said they wanted me to come back in better shape so I worked on that in winter ball. When they ask you to do something, you do it. But I weigh just about the same, I just have more muscle, man. That means more power."

Then he laughed.

"I'm just kidding you about hitting home runs and stuff like that," he said. "When I hit a home run, it is usually an accident. I just try to go up there every at bat and be aggressive, get a pitch I like and hit it. I did that pretty good most of last year and I think some people might have been surprised by that. But not me."

The 5-foot-8, 200-pounder said he doesn't totally agree with those who believe some extra pounds led to his wearing down in 2004, when he parlayed a strong first half into his first All-Star game appearance, a .282 batting average and career highs of 12 homers and 70 RBIs.

Some numbers say otherwise. Belliard hit only .172 (15-for-87) after sporting a .301 batting average on Sept. 1. His lack of production down the stretch was partly to blame for Cleveland's 17-27 finish after the Indians had moved within one game of first place on Aug. 15.

Belliard claims a bad bout with the flu was really responsible for his falloff.

"I played for a week with it, missed a few games, but was still weak when I came back," he said. "I couldn't believe how sick I was. They sent me to some doctors and they never really gave me an answer what it was, but that was what made me weak. It wasn't because I was heavy. I was the same weight when I was hitting .300.

"Too much is made of weight sometime. I think a player has to play the way he is comfortable. It works for some players. Look what Tony Gwynn did. It was like the fatter he got, the more hits he got. He'll be in the Hall of Fame."

Gwynn, the rather rotund outfielder who played 20 years for the San Diego Padres, won eight batting titles, amassed 3,141 hits, finished with a .338 career average and even compiled 319 stolen bases.

"He played the game hard and that's what I always try to do," said Belliard. "I'm going to be aggressive at bat, on the bases and in the field."

Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said Belliard aggressively adhered to a prescribed offseason program exercise program, too.

"He looks good, doesn't he?" said Soloff. "He didn't lose much weight, but it is redistributed into better muscle mass."

Belliard admits he feels the change. "I am eating more healthy and I do feel better," he said.

The 29-year-old will need to make another adjustment this season -- getting used to playing alongside a new shortstop. Belliard will no doubt miss nine-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel more than he will miss a few pounds.

"I never played alongside a shortstop like him," Belliard said of Vizquel, who left Cleveland as a free agent after 11 seasons to sign a rich three-year contract with San Francisco. "It was great to play one year with him.

"A big part of my game is turning the double play and I liked doing that with Omar, but now I'm going to have a new partner. No matter who wins the job, I know we are going to turn some double plays."

Jhonny Peralta, who won the MVP award of the Class AAA International League in 2004 and talented prospect Brandon Phillips are vying for Vizquel's old job.

"Both Jhonny and Brandon are fun to play with," Belliard said. "They have good hands and great range. They already know where I like to get the ball to turn a double play and I know where they like me to throw it. Whoever gets the job, we're going to get it done."

Belliard he can "get it done" offensively all season this year, too.

"I just want to do the same thing I did most of last year," he said. "I don't have any personal goals because when I set them they never seem to happen. I've learned to just go out and play hard and let everything else take care of itself. "We have a better team and a better bullpen than last year and I am very excited.

Last year was the most fun I've ever had because we had a good young team that got better. That makes this year fun already because I think this year, for the first time, I have a real chance at the playoffs."

Better than a slim chance, too.

RONNIE BELLIARD'S MAJOR-LEAGUE CAREER:

Yr

Team

Age

G

AB

H

AVG

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

98

Milwaukee

22

8

5

1

.200

0

0

0

0

0

99

Milwaukee

23

124

457

135

.295

8

58

4

64

59

00

Milwaukee

24

152

571

150

.263

8

54

7

82

84

01

Milwaukee

25

101

364

96

.264

11

36

5

35

65

02

Milwaukee

26

104

289

61

.211

3

26

2

18

46

03

Colorado

27

116

447

124

.277

8

50

7

49

71

04

Cleveland

28

152

599

169

.282

12

70

3

60

98

MLB Totals

757

2732

736

.269

50

294

28

308

423



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