Belliard front-runner at second for Nats

Belliard front-runner at second

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Ronnie Belliard and Felipe Lopez are battling for the Nationals' starting second-base job, and Belliard is clearly outplaying Lopez offensively and defensively.

After Tuesday's game against the Tigers, Lopez said he would not accept a backup role. Three days later, manager Manny Acta said he didn't want Lopez to know what he thought about his comments through the press.

"If I have to tell Felipe, I'll let him know when I make my decision," Acta said. "At the end of the day, I'm going to do what's best for my team. I'm going to try to keep the best team on the field and keep as many guys involved [as possible]. An attitude is a choice. I can only control mine."

General manager Jim Bowden, on the other hand, said he would be disappointed if Lopez accepted a bench role.

"That would really bother me," Bowden said. "I'm glad he has that position. At the end of the day, a lot can happen in this game. There could be injuries. There could be trades. There could be accepting roles until the situation could be resolved for everybody."

Entering Spring Training, the Nationals announced that Belliard and shortstop Cristian Guzman would be the double-play combination in 2008. In Bowden's mind, nothing has changed on that front.

"All I've seen since I've been here are the players [playing well] ," Bowden said. "We know Felipe has been to an All-Star Game. We know Felipe has come in with a phenomenal attitude, and we know he is capable of playing both positions."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.