While we have been engulfed in the Javy Guerra/Kenley Jansen closer drama this season, there has been one amazing story that has essentially been overlooked. Ronald Belisario‘s comeback from personal demons and substance abuse issues to pitch again with the Dodgers has been an unexpected surprise. He has not only made it back into the country and back on to the team for which he made a name for himself in 2009, but Beli is flourishing and pitching exceptionally well. In fact, we can make the case that he has been one of the best relievers out of the Dodger bullpen this season thus far.
Just how good has Belisario been? He’s 3-0 with a sparkling 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings of relief work. His ERA would be well under 1.00 if it weren’t for that pesky Alex Rios homerun he allowed in the eighth inning the other night against the White Sox. He has only allowed 3 earned runs all season, and just that one homerun. He’s struck out 15 while walking 11, and his WHIP is 0.92. He’s been quietly coming in out of the pen for the Dodgers and getting the big outs in sometimes high stake situations. He’s also able to pitch a couple of consecutive innings here and there, so like last night, we can rest Jansen and Lindblom.
In 2009, Belisario was outstanding for the Dodgers. He finished with a 2.04 ERA, and he held his opponents to a .201 batting average. Then a slew of VISA problems ensued stemming from a DUI arrest. He was placed on the restricted list while he was reportedly was in a substance-abuse treatment program. In 2010 when he resurfaced, it was apparent that he was still struggling with his personal issues, and it was reflected in his level of play. His ERA was up to 5.04. In 2011, Belisario never made it into the U.S. after more VISA complications sprang up after he tested positive for cocaine. He served a 25-game suspension after reporting early to Spring Training this year, and has done everything in his power to pitch as a Dodger again. You can’t help but feel a little bit inspired by his story. Sure, he made some wrong choices, but it seems like he has really worked hard and returned to his 2009 form.
The native Venezuelan sinkerballer was signed as a 16-year old amateur free agent by the Florida
Marlins in 1998. He pitched in the Florida farm system until 2005 when he underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the 2006 season due to an unspecified suspension. Beli then played for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliates from 2007-08. In 2009, Belisario signed a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training for the Dodgers in ’09. After showing up late to Spring Training due to more VISA problems, Belisario made the Opening Day roster. He made his MLB debut on April 7th when he pitched one scoreless inning of relief against the San Diego Padres.
The 6’3″ 245 pound right-hander pitched in 69 games for the Dodgers in 2009. He finished with a 4-3 record and a 2.04 ERA and 64 strikeouts. In 2010, he went 3-1 with a 5.04 ERA in 55.1 innings of relief work. Belisario landed on the restricted list twice that season, and he was clearly not focused on the field. Belisario was completely absent for the 2011 season after yet again having VISA problems and landing on the restricted list. Many thought we had seen the last of Belisario.
Unreliable. Disappearing. Troubled. It looks like Ronald Belisario has put these adjectives to rest this season. He has been anything but unreliable, and he has been an integral part of the Dodger bullpen success this season. I’d even go as far to suggest that he deserves a look as a All-Star. During this improbably magical Dodger season, Ronald Belisario’s story is one of the most unexpected stories of tenacity and personal struggle. We all have gone through rough spots in our own lives, and even Major League Baseball players can suffer mental problems or battle drug addiction. I’m glad the Dodgers took the chance on Belisario, because he can still pitch.