Nationals Trade Ronnie Belliard, Start Training Phenom Stephen Strasburg

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IAugust 31, 2009

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 21:  Stephen Strasburg, the overall first pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, watches pregame warmups at Nationals Park August 21, 2009 in Washington, DC. Strasburg, a right handed pitcher from San Diego State University, signed with the Nationals earlier this week wth a record contract for an amateur player.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

After Sunday's 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals traded utility infielder Ronnie Belliard to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later.

The Nats received 22-year old right-handed reliever Luis Garcia, 5-3 with five saves and a 2.92 ERA in 71 innings with the Dodgers Single-A affiliate.  His SO/BB rate is 3.67. 

In his minor league career, spanning four seasons, Garcia is 13-4 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.353 WHIP.

After the game, Belliard expressed mixed emotions about the deal.  "Happy because, hey, I'll be in L.A. The Dodgers are in first place. And I'm sad because I'm going to be leaving a lot of friends."

Belliard did not play much in the first half of the season, as the Nationals were evaluating Anderson Hernandez at second base.  But with Hernandez traded to the Mets mid-season, Belliard and Alberto Gonzalez were sharing time at second, and the veteran showed enough pop to make the Dodgers reach out to the Nats for the versitile infielder.

Belliard was in the final year of a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension he signed in July 2007 and he was not expected to re-sign with Washington, so any return for his services has to be considered a coup for general manager Mike Rizzo.

In his three seasons in D.C., Belliard hit .281/.338/.431 with 27 homers and 126 RBI in 329 games played.  He's hitting .322/.371/.478 since this season's all-star break.

Pete Orr, a left-handed hitter, was recalled Friday when Nyjer Morgan hit the disabled list and will split time with Gonzalez at the keystone for the remainder of the season.

Washington recalled Justin Maxwell from triple-A Syracuse to replace Belliard on the active roster and should split duties with Willie Harris in center field.

NOTES:  In other Nats news, RHP Stephen Strasburg had his first official workout as a member of the Washington Nationals, at their minor league training complex in Viera, FL.

The No. 1 overall pick did not throw from a mound, but participated in training exercises and some fielding drills.  He will not throw off a mound until Sept. 19, according to Nats minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams.

The 45-minute workout was with several players rehabbing from injury at the Nats complex, including LHP Scott Olsen, C Jesus Flores and OF Roger Bernadina.

Strasburg will train in Florida until Thursday, when he is expected to join the Nationals in D.C. after their road trip concludes.  He will not be activated, but he will work out with the team at Nationals Park, and perhaps even watch games from the dugout.  He iscautiously in my time I drank on the 40-man roster.

After the brief major league stint, Strasburg will return to the Florida Instuctional League, where he will finally make his first pitches since May 29 as a member of San Diego State.

Strasburg will headline a talented group of minor leaguers headed for the Arizona Fall League for the Nats this year.  Also in the group are RHP Drew Storen, the No. 10 overall pick in this year's amateur draft, C Derek Norris, (leading all Washington minor leaguers with 23 home runs and 78 RBI), 1B Chris Marrero (.294, 16 HR, 70 RBI between Double and Single-A), and SS Danny Espinosa (14 HR in Carolina League, 2009 Futures Game).