Ausmus' time with Astros nearing end

Ausmus' time with Astros nears end

MILWAUKEE -- When Brad Ausmus signed a one-year deal with the Astros early in the offseason, he definitively stated that 2008 will be his final season in an Astros uniform.

With five weeks remaining in the regular season, Ausmus hasn't changed his mind. He's not sure if he'll retire, but he knows that if he does play, it'll be for a team near his home in San Diego.

That narrows it down to the Padres, Dodgers and Angels. The Red Sox are also slightly tempting, seeing Ausmus has a home near Boston, in Cape Cod.

Ausmus doesn't know if he wants to play next season, and, more importantly, he doesn't know if any of those teams would have interest in him, likely as a backup catcher. What he does know is that his days with the Astros are nearing an end, and after 10 seasons in Houston, saying goodbye won't be easy.

The Astros' final regular-season game is Sept. 28. While his won't have the same impact that Craig Biggio's final game, Ausmus, unemotional by nature, expects to feel a few pangs as he walks off the field at Minute Maid Park for the last time.

"There are things that have happened that will stir me emotionally, make me think of the years I spent here, the people I've met and the fun we've had," Ausmus said. "I'm sure the last game of the year, I probably will be a little nostalgic."

Ausmus has only one reason for wanting to be closer to home: family. In the previous years, his daughters' schedules were somewhat flexible, allowing them to spent entire summers in Houston. But now that they're older -- 10 and nine -- their lives keep them in San Diego longer. That limits the time the family is together, and from that perspective, Ausmus has had enough.

"Their activities are getting to the point that they extend a month beyond the school year," he said. "It really limits them to parts of July and August in Houston. It's not very much time. It's making it more and more difficult on my wife, and difficult for me, because I don't get to see them."

Ausmus has been primarily a backup player this season, although he was thrust into a starting role for chunks of time due to the ineffectiveness of J.R. Towles, who has spent the majority of last 2 1/2 months in the Minor Leagues.

He was scheduled to play the final game in Milwaukee on Wednesday and may play only one of the four games in New York -- Friday, when Oswalt pitches.

Ausmus admits the lack of playing time leads to occasional boredom, but he still enjoys observing the games from a strategic standpoint and thinking along with the moves being made by the manager.

Ausmus has long been considered a prime candidate to manage in the big leagues should he choose that career path, but for now, the 39-year-old catcher plans to enjoy the little time he has left with the Astros, his team for 10 of the past 12 seasons.

The only memento he plans to take with him is his uniform from his final game. Most of his keepsakes will be memories, of teammates such as Jeff Bagwell, Biggio, Bill Spiers and Billy Wagner, and of poignant moments such as the Astros' first National League Central title in 1997 and their World Series appearance in 2005.

Ironically, his daughters are sadder than he is to leave the Bayou City. Their entire lives have been spent in San Diego and Houston, and although the Ausmus family considers San Diego their permanent home, all four have a deep affection for Houston as well.

"It's the biggest small town in America," Ausmus said. "I know it's the fourth-largest city by population, but you don't feel like you're in a giant concrete city. People have been extremely courteous and respectful to not only me, but to my family. The fans have always treated us great."

Pitching matchup
LHP Wandy Rodriguez (7-5, 4.15 ERA)
Rodriguez struggled with location in his most recent outing, and the D-backs took advantage, scoring four runs off the left-hander over 2 1/3 innings. Rodriguez tied a career-high with six walks and struck out four. The lefty last faced Milwaukee on June 25 at Miller Park, netting the win after yielding one run over six innings.

MIL: LHP Manny Parra (9-6, 4.12 ERA)
Parra's frustration is mounting, even though he has pitched well in his first full season in the Majors. But since rattling off eight straight wins, Parra has gone 1-4 in his past nine starts, including a loss at Dodger Stadium on Friday in which he matched his career and season high by allowing 10 hits. Parra was working with what he called his best pure "stuff" of the season, but he couldn't locate.

Many of the cast of the hit shows "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" were at Miller Park on Tuesday to celebrate the unveiling of a statue of "The Fonz" in downtown Milwaukee. Henry Winkler, who played Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli through the duration of the popular 1970s show that took place in Milwaukee, threw out the first pitch before Tuesday's game, and Anson Williams, who played Potsie Weber, sang the national anthem. Also in attendance were Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham), Marion Ross (Mrs. "C"), Erin Moran (Joanie), Donny Most (Ralph Malph), Penny Marshall (Laverne), Cindy Williams (Shirley), and director-producer Garry Marshall.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 11-8, 4.28) at Mets (Johan Santana, 11-7, 2.75), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Astros (Brandon Backe, 7-12, 5.62) at Mets (John Maine, 10-7, 3.82), 6:10 p.m. CT

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