Astros' Blum preparing for utility role
Veteran could see time at all four infield spots this season
HOUSTON -- When veteran infielder Geoff Blum signed a one-year contract in October to return to the Astros for a fifth season, he was aware his playing time would likely be reduced from the 381 at-bats he got last year.
He'll turn 37 years old in April and has played in more than 120 games in a season only once (122 with San Diego in 2007) since 2003, which was the final year of his first stint in Houston. In short, he's better suited for a backup role at this point in his career.
Blum, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract for 2010 with a mutual option for 2011, will fill what Houston general manager Ed Wade calls a "super utility role." He'll see time at all four infield spots, but newcomer Pedro Feliz will get the lion's share of the playing time at third base.
"I'm fine with it," Blum said. "My role's been different every year I played. The opportunities always seem to be there, luckily, with my ability to play a couple of different positions. If it's not third base, hopefully I can give guys a break at second, short or first, if necessary, but my role is definitely going to be different than last year.
"I made the most of my starts last year at third base, and now I've got to wait and see where they're going to come from, probably pinch-hitting or off the bench. That's what I did two years ago when I came to Houston. I'm comfortable with it, and I'm glad they extended a contract to me and brought me back."
Blum hit .247 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs last year in 120 games with the Astros, spending most of his time at third base and committing only three errors. He's a .262 hitter with 44 homers and 206 RBIs in 487 career games in five years with the Astros.
Blum, a switch-hitter, was expected to platoon at third with Aaron Boone last year but wound up making the majority of starts after Boone missed most of the season following open-heart surgery. He finished the season starting a team-high 94 games at third. This year, Blum figures to be one of manager Brad Mills' go-to guys in tight situations.
"There's going to be more pressure doing one at-bat per game than four, but as far as physically, it's going to be less stressful on me at my particular age," he said. "I want to win, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to win and whatever they ask me, I will."
Blum, one of the veteran leaders in the clubhouse, is thrilled with Mills and the coaching staff as a whole. New pitching coach Brad Arnsberg was on Montreal's coaching staff in 2000 when Blum was with the Expos, and new first-base coach Bobby Meacham was with Blum in San Diego for a year.
It's no secret the atmosphere in the clubhouse last year under manager Cecil Cooper was contentious, but the new staff has players feeling good about Spring Training.
"I have a good relationship with those guys and I've heard nothing but good things," Blum said. "It gives you something to look forward to, getting to know new people and see how the system is going to run."
The addition of Feliz, starter Brett Myers and relievers Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon has made the Astros better, Blum says. He believes the team, which was one game out of first place in late July, was close to contending last year and didn't need a massive overhaul.
"I appreciate the fact they didn't panic and go out and sign a ton of free agents," he said. "I know payroll issues had something to do with it, but I know the additions they did make will definitely help our ballclub be better.
In 11 Major League seasons, Blum has hit .250 with 193 doubles, 95 homers and 446 RBIs in 1,256 games. He won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, hitting a game-winning homer in the 14th inning of Game 3 at Minute Maid Park to beat the Astros.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.