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01/26/10 10:32 PM EST

Dodgers re-sign Belliard, Ausmus

Los Angeles strengthens bench with veteran infielder, catcher

LOS ANGELES -- Ned Colletti is stockpiling players and proud of it.

"The bench gets overlooked, but without a good bench, you're going to scuffle," the general manager said Tuesday after re-signing infielder Ronnie Belliard and backup catcher Brad Ausmus.

Belliard -- who played so well after being acquired last August that he won the starting second-base job -- agreed to a one-year contract for $825,000 plus incentives. Ausmus agreed to a one-year deal worth $850,000 plus a $1 million option for 2011 or a $150,000 buyout.

Belliard, who will be 35 in April, was acquired last Aug. 30 from Washington for young pitchers Luis Garcia and Victor Garate. He hit .351 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games with the Dodgers, starting nine games at third base for the injured Casey Blake and 10 at second base, where he displaced All-Star Orlando Hudson.

Hudson left this winter via free agency without an offer from the Dodgers, who appeared headed for Spring Training with Blake DeWitt and free-agent signee Jamey Carroll competing for the starting second-base position.

Now Belliard re-joins the mix, appearing to be the incumbent, considering he started all eight postseason games at second base three months ago, hitting .300 with an on-base percentage of .382.

"We got a professional hitter, as he showed the last month of the season and into the playoffs," Colletti said. "He's not afraid of the moment. And he just adds to our versatility."

At their ages, the Dodgers believe it's asking too much to expect either Belliard or Blake (36) to play every day. So Colletti has given manager Joe Torre plenty of infield pieces to mix and match.

Belliard can play second, third and first. Carroll can play second, short, third and the outfield. DeWitt can play second and third. Nick Green, a non-roster invitee who was Boston's starting shortstop for two months, could be Rafael Furcal's backup at shortstop if his back heals in time from disk surgery. If not, the Dodgers have Chin-lung Hu.

If Belliard doesn't start, he'll provide Torre with a professional bat off the bench and defensive versatility. His pinch-single in the seventh inning against Colorado on Oct. 3 was the game-winning RBI in the Dodgers' division-clinching win.

Belliard is an 11-year veteran, having previously played for Milwaukee, Colorado, Cleveland, St. Louis and Washington. He was an All-Star in 2004 with Cleveland and joined the Cardinals during their 2006 championship season. His best season was 2005, when he hit 17 home runs with 78 RBIs.

He opened last season as the Nationals' starting second baseman, but fell out of favor with manager Manny Acta and lost his job. After Acta was replaced, Belliard's playing time increased and he hit .361 in his final 24 games leading to the trade to the Dodgers.

Belliard was a comfortable fit in the Dodgers' clubhouse, his locker wedged between those of Furcal and Manny Ramirez.

Ausmus, who turns 41 in April, hit a career-high .295 as backup to Russell Martin in 2009, playing in only 36 games with 27 starts.

His return blocks the promotion of rookie A.J. Ellis and leaves the bench predominantly right-handed since the trade of Juan Pierre, especially if DeWitt starts. Non-roster invitee Doug Mientkiewicz could make the team as a left-handed pinch-hitter.

But the Dodgers are still looking to add a left-handed-hitting outfielder to compete with rookie Xavier Paul and Jason Repko. One free agent the Dodgers have had interest in previously is Frank Catalanotto.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.