Hawkins willing to return to Astros

Hawkins willing to return to Astros

HOUSTON -- When the regular season ends next week, LaTroy Hawkins will pack up his car and make the four-hour drive to Prosper, Texas, and wait for his next opportunity.

Hawkins, a free agent at season's end, would like to return to the Astros in 2010, but he's in no rush to make any long-term plans.

"I'll just sit and wait," he said. "I'm not in a hurry, and they're probably not in a hurry, either. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be four hours away from here in Prosper, Texas. Chilling."

Hawkins, 36, has pitched well since the Astros made a trade with the New York Yankees to acquire him on July 30, 2008. He posted a 5.71 ERA in 33 games with the Yankees, but he was 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA in 24 games with the Astros last year.

In 62 games this season, he's 1-4 with a 2.24 ERA and 11 saves. He has a 1.79 ERA in 85 games since joining the Astros, the third-lowest ERA in the Majors since that date (minimum 70 appearances).

"From where I came from last year early in the season to the last half of last year to this year, it's night and day," he said. "I guess the baseball gods got tired of watching me get my [behind] kicked."

Hawkins, who was on the disabled list in August with shingles, has not allowed a run in 19 of his past 22 appearances and 27 of his past 31. His 11 saves are the most he's had since 2004, when he saved 25 games for the Cubs.

"I really and truly don't understand why he got let go by the Yankees, but their loss has been our gain," said interim manager Dave Clark. "He's a true professional, and he goes about his business the right way. He's a true leader down in the bullpen, along with [Jose] Valverde and [Doug] Brocail. That what we need down there, stability and guys who have been there before."

Pitching matchup
HOU: RHP Felipe Paulino (2-10, 6.06 ERA)
Paulino is 0-4 with a 3.52 ERA in his past four starts, but he has been the victim of some poor run support. In his first three starts in September, the Astros didn't score a run while he was on the mound. He gave up eight hits and four runs in his previous start on Sunday at Milwaukee. He's 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA in four career starts against the Reds, including 0-2 with a 2.55 ERA in three starts this season.

CIN: RHP Justin Lehr (4-2, 5.30 ERA)
Lehr gave up 11 hits over five innings on Sept. 16, but he was fortunate not to have anyone on base when the Astros hitters really pounced with five home runs -- all solo shots, including three in the third inning. Cincinnati carved out a 6-5 win, while Lehr got a no-decision. The five homers Lehr allowed matched a team record last reached by lefty Brandon Claussen against the Cubs on July 18, 2005.

Carlos Lee is two RBIs shy of 100, which would give him five consecutive 100-RBI seasons. ... The Astros committed two errors on Friday after committing just three over the previous 20 games. ... First baseman Lance Berkman's 47 homers are the most among active players against Cincinnati. ... Closer Jose Valverde has converted his past 18 save opportunities, posting a 0.47 ERA over that span.

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Up next
• Sunday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 13-11, 2.97) vs. Reds (Johnny Cueto, 10-10, 4.39), 1:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Astros (Yorman Bazardo, 0-2, 9.55) at Phillies (Cole Hamels, 10-9, 4.11), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Astros (TBD) at Phillies (J.A. Happ, 11-4, 2.79), 6:05 p.m. CT

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