CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Familiar faces coming to town

Familiar faces coming to town

HOUSTON -- The upcoming series with the Dodgers will feature several familiar names who filled various roles with the Astros over the years. Only this time, those old friends will be in Dodgers uniforms, each having departed Houston and landed in Los Angeles via free agency.

Brad Ausmus, Houston's catcher for 10 years and for five of their six playoff appearances since 1997, is now a backup for the Dodgers. His uniform No. 11 is now on the back of his good friend and former teammate, Mike Hampton, who still receives text-message reminders from Ausmus -- "Remember last year when I hit a home run off you?"

The last time Astros fans saw Ausmus, the catcher had suited up for the final game of the season in September, saluted the crowd during a pregame ceremony that included a hearty sendoff, and hit a home run off Hampton, who was pitching for the Braves. Hampton was also auditioning for a job in 2009, preferably with the Astros. That he allowed a home run to the light-hitting Ausmus clearly didn't sway the Astros away from signing him.

Fans haven't seen Ausmus since that game, but his friends have heard from him, mostly via text message.

"Knock knock," Ausmus will text Hampton. "Who's there? I hit a home run off you last year."

Ausmus isn't the only former Astros player who will be in the visitor's dugout this week. Mark Loretta, who played for Houston in 2002 and again from 2007-08, is a utility infielder for the Dodgers, and Randy Wolf, who was traded here before the deadline last year, will start for L.A. on Wednesday.

Wolf is the only one of the three with a starting role, and entering his upcoming start, he has a 1-1 record and a 3.93 ERA. Ausmus has appeared in two games, logging three hits in seven at-bats. Loretta has played in seven games, recording five hits in nine at-bats.

The Dodgers were planning to use three left-handed starters during this series but instead slotted righty Chad Billingsly to pitch Thursday's finale.

Jeff Keppinger, who missed the first series of this homestand with the Reds with a sore back, is expected to start at third for the first two games, when the Astros face the left-handers. Keppinger, the right-handed-hitting half of the third-base platoon, is 3-for-6 against lefties this season.

Meanwhile, Lance Berkman, who knocked a solo homer on Monday, made sure to take swings from the right side of the plate during his extra round of batting practice that afternoon, in anticipation of the upcoming Dodgers series.

"Whenever you know you're going to face some left-handed pitching, particularly when you get a string of two or three guys in a row, I want to make sure I'm as sharp as I can be from the opposite side," he said. "That's the thing that kind of stinks about being a switch-hitter. I'm so concerned about my left-handed swing, then all of a sudden, we're facing two or three lefties in a row, and now, I have to remember what it was like to hit right-handed. I'm just trying to keep everything maintained."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Russ Ortiz (0-0, 6.23 ERA)
Ortiz had his longest performance so far this season in his last outing vs. the Pirates, allowing three runs over 4 2/3 innings in an Astros win. He still seeks his first win and will do so against the Dodgers, whom he's faced plenty of times in his career. The former Giants pitcher has made 22 appearances vs. the Dodgers, including 21 starts. He has a record of 8-9 and a 5.07 ERA, with 57 walks and 76 strikeouts.

LAD: LHP Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
Kershaw pitched a masterpiece of a no-decision against the Giants, allowing only one hit and one run over seven innings with 13 strikeouts. All he had to show for it was a no-decision, as the bullpen blew the save. But Kershaw, 21, was able to contain a veteran lineup despite lacking command of his changeup, becoming the youngest Dodger to strike out 13 since Sandy Koufax was 19.

Tidbits
Berkman is tied with Craig Biggio with 291 career home runs, second on the club's all-time list. Jeff Bagwell leads the franchise with 449. ... After a solid first outing, Felipe Paulino has been guaranteed another start. "After that performance?" manager Cecil Cooper asked, referring to Paulino's six shutout frames on Sunday against the Reds. "It's his turn, yeah."

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-H HD

On radio
• KTRH 740, KLAT 1010 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Astros (Roy Oswalt, 0-2, 4.26) vs. Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 1-1, 3.93), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 1-1, 1.89) vs. Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 3-0, 2.84), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Friday: Astros (Felipe Paulino, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 1-1, 4.58), 7:05 p.m. CT

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

{}
{}