HOUSTON -- Making his last appearance at Minute Maid Park as a player this weekend, former Astros and current Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus said he'd be open to rejoining the organization with which he played for 10 years once his playing career ends. Ausmus plans to retire at season's end.

The Astros have brought several popular players back into the organization in recent years, including Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Jose Cruz, who became special assistants to the general manager, and former pitcher Doug Brocail, who helped general manager Ed Wade this year in scouting.

"I certainly would consider it," said Ausmus, who played with the Astros from 1997-98 and 2001-07. "I played here for 10 years, and I would say my fondest memories in baseball happened in an Astros uniform."

Ausmus stopped by the Astros' clubhouse Thursday and said hello to a few familiar faces, but most of the players he shared time with in Houston, including Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, are in different uniforms. Ausmus and Oswalt had dinner when the Dodgers were in Philadelphia last month.

"There's a handful left, but most of the core guys that were here through the playoff runs [in 2004 and 2005] are gone," he said. "When it's all over and I look back on my career, I'll consider myself an Astro. But now I'm with the Dodgers and I'm trying to beat the Astros."

Simulated game goes well for Astros' Paulino

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Felipe Paulino, on the disabled list since June 21 with right shoulder tendinitis, threw his second simulated game Thursday with hopes of returning to action by the end of the year, even if it's in a relief role. Paulino threw about 45 pitches in two innings and had no problems.

"Everything is coming along well," he said. "I'll see how I feel tomorrow and what the next step is to be ready. Let me see how my arm feels tomorrow, and after that we'll see what we are going to do the next few days."

Astros manager Brad Mills was impressed with how well Paulino threw his breaking pitches, but still plans to be cautious. Paulino went 1-8 with a 4.40 ERA in 14 starts this year, but had terrible run support.

"He was cautiously optimistic, so we're going to kind of wait and see how he feels and kind of proceed from there," Mills said. "He threw the ball very well. We were very excited about the crispness of his breaking stuff, his curveball and slider. Those were nice. When he hasn't been out there and hasn't been throwing to hitters in a long time, it was sure nice to see."

A return to the mound before the season is over would give Paulino some confidence and peace of mind heading into the winter.

"When we do throw him, it's going to be very calculated, and if we can use him in a game, we'll use him in a game," Mills said. "If we can't, then we'll probably continue to throw him in the bullpen and throw an extended bullpen [session], and after he does that, give him two or three more days off and do the same thing again."

Bagwell not expecting first-ballot Hall nod

HOUSTON -- Astros hitting coach Jeff Bagwell, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this winter, said Thursday he doesn't expect to be elected to the Hall any time soon, citing how long it took slugger Andre Dawson to get voted in by the baseball writers last year.

"I don't put that much thought into it, but I don't expect to get into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot-type thing," he said. "It took 'Hawk' 12, 13 years and he had similar kind of numbers. It's going to be an interesting time between November and January to see what happens. As we get close to that time, I'll be thinking about it."

Bagwell, who was hired as hitting coach at the All-Star break, played 15 seasons with the Astros and is the franchise's all-time leader with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs. He won the National League MVP Award in 1994, the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1991 and was a four-time All-Star before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his career in 2005.

Bagwell admitted playing the bulk of his career in the so-called "Steroids Era" might hurt his chances, though he's never been linked to any doping.

"It does concern me," he said. "People like to talk about it, but are you kidding that there's nobody in the game during that period of time that could be any good on their own? There have been good players for 100 years, and there still can be good players that are good that weren't taking anything. It's a shame the whole thing happened."

Bagwell hopes the writers take into consideration his entire set of tools and not just his offensive numbers. He was generally considered one of the best baserunners in the game and was a heady defensive player, winning a Gold Glove in 1994.

"To get into the Hall of Fame shouldn't be just about offense," he said.

Ex-hitting coach Berry lands with Padres

HOUSTON -- After turning down a chance to remain in the Astros' organization and manage one of their upper-level Minor League clubs, former hitting coach Sean Berry has accepted a job as the Minor League hitting coordinator for the San Diego Padres.

"The Astros offered me the manager's job right after they fired me, and the Padres pretty much called me the day after that and started conversations about possibly coming to work for them," Berry said. "I talked to a lot of people and it worked out. The Astros were definitely involved as far as possibly coming back. I was still in contact and talking with [general manager] Ed [Wade] and [then-director of player development] Ricky [Bennett] and figuring out a way to stay. It was tough."

Berry, 44, spent four seasons as Astros hitting coach before being replaced by Jeff Bagwell at the All-Star break this year. He spent 2005 and the first half of the 2006 season as the club's Minor League hitting coordinator. Being with the Padres will allow him to reaming closer to his family in Paso Robles, Calif., which is about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"When I got to come home this year, it was a blessing to be able to spend time with my family," Berry said. "That got me started thinking. I have a son who's a junior in high school and a daughter who's a freshman. Not that I don't mind the crazy hours of being a big league coach, but this was a too good of a situation to pass up. I'm excited about working for them."

Worth noting

Geoff Blum was recognized on the field prior to Thursday's game as the Astros' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given annually to the Major League Baseball player who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field.