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Astros turn attention to bullpen

Astros turn attention to bullpen

INDIANAPOLIS -- Astros general manager Ed Wade all but ruled out being able to re-sign free-agent infielder Miguel Tejada while making a push to retain right-handed reliever LaTroy Hawkins on Tuesday afternoon.

With some payroll flexibility after closer Jose Valverde's decision to reject arbitration, the Astros turned their attention to Hawkins, who had posted a 1.71 ERA in 89 games since coming to the Astros in a trade on July 20, 2008.

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Wade met early Tuesday with Larry Reynolds, the agent for Hawkins, and said discussions are expected to be ongoing. Hawkins was scheduled to join his agent late Tuesday in Indianapolis to meet with the Astros.

"I don't think Larry Reynolds was surprised we reached out today to have further dialogue with him," Wade said. "The only reluctance we had to move forward in an aggressive nature with LaTroy was the cost of doing business on the back end of the bullpen.

"We didn't want to get to the point where if we had got Jose back here and LaTroy in place that we were basically placing ourselves in position to do nothing else. We would have been pretty close to that. Freedom and flexibility is great and not having the best closer on the market [Valverde] is not so great."

Meanwhile, Wade met Tuesday morning with Diego Bentz, the agent for Tejada, and expressed doubt that his club would be able to sign the former American League Most Valuable Player.

"I'm not optimistic we're going to be able to get anything done on Miggy," Wade said. "We love him death and everything he's brought to the organization, but I don't necessarily see a common ground."

Wade said the sticking point is length of the contract. Tejada made about $14 million last season, but the Astros told him he would had to have a large pay cut and play third base if he were to return for a third season in Houston.

Valverde was seeking a multiyear deal, which the Astros weren't comfortable with. Wade made that clear to Valverde's representatives, and was willing to work out a deal before Monday's deadline to accept arbitration, which didn't happen.

"We understand their perspective, and they understood ours," he said.

Hawkins, who made nearly $4 million last season, is also seeking a multiyear deal, which has been a sticking point. Hawkins could serve as the Astros' closer, but Wade didn't rule out adding another reliever if Hawkins re-signs.

"We have the ability to fill more than one slot on the back of the bullpen," Wade said. "Whether we feel it's necessary or not is another story, but we think we have the wherewithal to do it, and there may be opportunities to add more to the back end. We've talked to agents and talked to clubs where those possibilities may exist."

Wade also talked to a handful of other clubs Tuesday and was waiting to hear back about a couple of trade possibilities. Houston is also exploring ways to upgrade its offense at third base, which would allow Geoff Blum to move into more of a utility role.

"I would like to think the time we're spending here is productive," Wade said. "Whether it ends up in a press announcement today, tomorrow or Thursday, remains to be seen. There's no reason for us to set deadlines at this point, but we're prepared to say yes on a couple of different fronts if we can get some things done."

Hawkins went 1-4 with a 2.13 ERA with 11 saves last season with the Astros at a base salary of $3.5 million. He wound up making close to $4 million including incentives, and the Astros have had a contract offer on the table for several weeks.

"There's some opportunities out there we've got to look at and figure out what's going to be in his best interest and move from there," Reynolds said.

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

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