Ronnie Belliard to retire after one final game tonight


Veteran infielder Ronnie Belliard said Tuesday that tonight’s game for the Phillies’ Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate will be his last and that he’s going to retire.

Belliard signed a minor league deal with the Phillies after failing to make the Yankees out of spring training this year.  He played in 82 games with the Dodgers last season, hitting .216/.295/.327 in 162 at-bats.

Belliard was quite an underrated player at his peak.  He was viewed as a disappointment after coming up with the Brewers, in part because he never really improved after his strong rookie season.  Also, he often got dinged because he always carried some extra weight.  No one likes a middle infielder with a gut.

Still, he was a rock-solid second baseman for several years and even an All-Star in 2004.  He had his best Triple Crown season in 2005, hitting .284 with 17 homers and 78 RBI.  Later, he proved to be a very useful role player with the Nationals in 2008, hitting .287/.372/.473 in 296 at-bats, and in 2009, when he was a great pickup for the Dodgers down the stretch.

In all, Belliard hit .273/.338/.415 with 114 homers and 601 RBI in 1,481 games.  His career OPS+ of 96 bests that of fellow second basemen Brandon Phillips (.268/.318/.427, 94) and Aaron Hill (.268/.322/.420, 95).

Odds are that he would have had a longer and more productive career had he focused more on his conditioning. Maybe he’d still be going strong as a regular at age 36 right now. Teams certainly would have been more interested in taking a chance on him if he just once made a point of showing up in the best shape of his life.

But so what?  It was his career, and it was a darn good one that allowed him to make about $16 million in the process. Outside of the horrible 2002 season that caused the Brewers to kick him to the curb, he was pretty much always a useful player when healthy. And now he has a glorious second career in the world of competitive eating to look forward to.

Mike Fiers may not be ready for start of regular season due to back issue

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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers starter Mike Fiers is dealing with a back issue and may not be ready for the start of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire characterized the injury as a “stiff back” and added, “Maybe a little bit of a bulging disk or something like that.”

Fiers, 32, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Tigers in December. He has had a forgettable spring, yielding 12 runs on 10 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

Fiers had a rotation spot locked up along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Liriano. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris were battling it out for the No. 5 spot. If Fiers opens the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, both could have spots in the rotation.