By The Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — Bill Hall doesn’t like to be called a utility player.
After finalizing a contract with Houston on Monday, he can shed that title and be known as the Astros’ starting second baseman.
Hall received a $3.25 million, one-year contract from Houston that includes a $4 million mutual option for 2012. General manager Ed Wade said Hall, who spent last season with the Boston Red Sox, will play regularly at second base.
Hall played several positions last season, but spent the most time at left field, where he appeared in 55 games with 42 starts, and second base, where he had 51 appearances with 38 starts.
He’s excited about the chance to play one position after bouncing around for most of his career.
“I’ve always said I’m really good at a lot of positions, but if I concentrate on one then I could be great,” he said. “So that’s my goal going into this season is to become a great second baseman and play as hard as I can.”
Hall, who turns 31 on Dec. 28, hit .247 with 18 homers and 46 RBIs last season. He has hit .250 with 122 homers and 425 RBIs in a nine-year career, mostly spent with Milwaukee.
The move leaves Jeff Keppinger, who finished the season at second base for Houston, without an everyday position. But Wade said he’ll still have opportunities with the team.
“Jeff Keppinger has done a very solid job for us over the past two seasons and with his versatility, we believe there will be plenty of at-bats to go around,” Wade said.
The Astros are also looking forward to Hall’s contribution on offense after they finished last season near the bottom of almost every statistical category during a 76-86 season. Hall is the second addition Houston has made this offseason in an effort to improve its hitting. The Astros acquired shortstop Clint Barmes in a trade with the Rockies last month.
“Bill brings some additional offensive punch to our lineup,” Wade said. “He hit 18 home runs in limited at-bats last year with Boston, and we think our offense is enhanced with the run-producing potential that both he and Clint Barmes can provide.”
Hall is looking forward to returning to the NL Central after spending most of his career playing for Milwaukee.
“I’m very comfortable in this division,” he said. “I know what kind of competition there is in this division. I know most of the pitchers in the division. I’m definitely excited to be back in it.”