Feliz expected to start for Astros

HOUSTON -- Pedro Feliz is moving from the National League's best team to one that he thinks has the potential to make the playoffs next season.

The former Philadelphia third baseman signed a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Houston Astros on Thursday, the last day of the winter meetings.

The 34-year-old Feliz is expected to start at third base for the Astros, who finished 74-88 last season. Feliz will take over for Geoff Blum, who started 94 games at third last season, and Jeff Keppinger, who started 67.

"It's a great opportunity for me to go there and be with a team that has a chance to get in the playoffs," Feliz said on a conference call Friday. "It's one of those teams, I think anyone would want to play for them."

Feliz hit .266 with 12 homers and 82 RBIs for NL champion Phillies in 2009. The team declined his $5.5 million option for 2010 and opted to pay a $500,000 buyout. Philadelphia replaced Feliz with Placido Polanco, who signed an $18 million, three-year deal.

Feliz played two seasons with the Phillies, and drove home the winning run in the deciding game of the 2008 World Series against Tampa Bay.

"The Phillies are already in the past," he said. "I've got everything in my mind now with Houston. It's a new team, a new home for me, a new family right now. I'm just happy because I'm going to a team that wants me and I want to be there."

Feliz has a .254 career average with 135 homers and 558 RBIs in 10 major-league seasons. He has a .250 average at Minute Maid Park over the last three seasons, with 11 hits and four RBIs in 44 at-bats.

The Astros are looking for another strong hitter in the middle of the lineup after averaging only 3.97 runs last season, 27th in the majors.

Feliz hopes he can be the missing link to an offense that got production from a few players, but never seemed to cobble together high-scoring innings. Leadoff man Michael Bourn hit .285 and stole 61 bases, Carlos Lee hit .300 with 26 homers and Lance Berkman batted .274 in what he considered a down year.

"They have potential, they have the players," Feliz said. "They just have to put everything together. It's a great team and a great opportunity. We've just got to play hard and get everything together and everything will be OK."

When the Phillies declined to pick up his option, Feliz started sizing up teams that seemed to need a third baseman and the Astros were among them. He also said his wife, Niurka Mateo, had mentioned Houston before as a city she thinks their family would enjoy.

"There are a lot of things that are good for me [about joining the Astros]," he said. "I'm going to leave everything I have on the field. I always think about winning, that's the main point for me. I think they have that kind of team in Houston."