Hampton interested in Houston return

Hampton interested in Houston return

HOUSTON -- It's been nine years since Mike Hampton last threw a pitch for the Astros, but his ties to select players in the organization have remained strong over the years.

Hampton, who started for the Braves on Sunday afternoon and gave up a two-run homer to his good friend Brad Ausmus in the third inning, will be a free agent in a few weeks, and he confirmed after the game that he would be interested in signing with the Astros.

"I've always loved this place," Hampton said after the Astros beat the Braves, 3-1. "Definitely. I'm sure there will be interest on both sides. We'll see if we can work something out. I've always loved it here."

Hampton enjoyed some of the best years of his career during his years with the Astros from 1996-99. He won 15 games in '97 and was on the mound when the Astros clinched their first National League Central title. In '99, he won 22 games, finishing in second place in the Cy Young Award voting behind Randy Johnson.

Hampton has had his share of injury issues in the past several years, including a strained left oblique that kept him out of action for the entire 2007 season. He also had surgery on a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow that year.

He injured his right hamstring during an appearance in the Mexican Winter League last November, and he was sidelined from his first start of the season for the Braves in April when he strained a left pectoral muscle minutes before the game.

However, Hampton went on to make 13 starts this year while compiling a 3-4 record and a 4.85 ERA. He was strong in September, allowing 16 earned runs over six starts, spanning 38 innings for a 3.79 ERA.

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