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Blum glad to be back in Houston

Blum glad to be back in Houston

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Geoff Blum is coming off a bad break up. The San Diego Padres did not renew Blum's contract at the end of 2007, ending a three-year relationship, and they didn't bother to say goodbye, either.

"Not [any phone calls] at all," Blum said. "Not one. Nothing. Not even a 'Good luck, take care. We're not going to try and offer you the same contract.' It was just crickets."

Blum said he loved playing for the Padres, but the way his hometown team went about parting ways irked him.

"Playing those three years in San Diego, I felt like I had three pretty good seasons and helped that team succeed," said Blum, 34, who hit .249 while filling an important utility need for the Padres. "To not get a call back pretty much showed me where the loyalty is in the game these days."

By pure coincidence, Blum ended up in another familiar city that he feels loyal to by signing on for his second tour in Houston in November.

He recalls fond memories from Minute Maid Park, both for and against the Astros.

But Blum didn't consciously come back to Houston. They courted him instead.

"I always thought it would be nice to come back here and play, but baseball is kind of strange," said Blum, who turned in identical 10-homer, 52-RBI seasons in 2002 and 2003 with the Astros. "You can't anticipate those things. When the opportunity came up, I definitely took advantage of it."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper approached Blum after the Padres fallout with a need for some versatility on the bench.

Blum, a nine-year veteran switch-hitter who has played every position except for pitcher, catcher and center field in his career, jumped at the chance, knowing he should not have a problem pleasing Cooper.

Blum is hitting .280 (7-for-25) this spring and has already played first, second and third in eight games.

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"You can put him anywhere, and he'll do a good job for you," Cooper said. "He's a veteran. He's a good presence in our clubhouse. He's a guy that can play basically all over the diamond, and we're going to use him that way. So far, he's looked good. He's looked extremely good."

Blum quietly signed early during an otherwise noisy offseason that saw Houston acquire Miguel Tejada and Kaz Matsui to play ahead of him.

He came to the clubhouse to see a revamped roster almost nothing like what he had been a part of before.

In 2002 and 2003, Blum helped bring along young infielders Adam Everett and Morgan Ensberg. Now, he's just trying to keep up with proven mashers Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Tejada.

"I don't think anybody's going to mention my name in that sentence," Blum said of the team's power prowess. "I don't know what my game is. I'm going to try my best to get on base and let those guys do their job, facilitate them a little bit."

Blum is selling himself short in the slugging category, and Astros fans ought to know it.

After all, the most memorable moment of his career, a home run, came against Houston.

In Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, Blum broke a tie in the 14th inning with a shocking solo shot as his White Sox went on to take the game and then the Series from the Astros in a sweep.

It was his first at-bat in three weeks.

Blum described the hit as "stuff dreams are made of" at the time.

It is more of a nightmare for a dwindling group of veteran Astros, who gave Blum good-natured grief for ruining that season but have since swallowed the sorrow.

"The only thing I remember thinking, if somebody is going to beat us, it might as well be Blum because he was always a good friend," said Brad Ausmus, who caught Ezequiel Astacio during Blum's at-bat.

Chicago had picked up Blum in a trade with the Padres at the 2005 trade deadline. He re-signed with San Diego after the World Series and spent two more years there before the sides split without as much as a phone call.

Despite the rocky exit, Blum looks forward to returning to PETCO Park for the season-opening series beginning March 31. He hopes to visit with good friends Adrian Gonzalez, Khalil Greene and Josh Bard.

But there are others, mostly non-players, that he might not exchange pleasantries with.

"It's a business, we know that," Blum said before cracking a smile. "I'm sure there's a handful of people that I won't go out of my way to say hi to."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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