By ROBERT HENSLEE, SportsRadio 610

The Astros, desperate for some pop in an otherwise punchless lineup, have signed 10-year veteran Jack Cust for an audition in spring training.  

Cust has clubbed 100 homeruns over the last 5 seasons for the Athletics and Mariners.  He has also led the American League in strikeouts three times. 

The 33-year old slugger is coming off a disappointing season inSeattle, where he had a .213 batting average and hit just three homeruns in 270 plate appearances last season.  

Before Astros fans start wondering if departed general manager Ed Wade somehow engineered this signing, it should be noted Cust is signed to a non-guaranteed contract.  

Even if he makes the team in spring training, his salary is only $600,000.  And if he rediscovers his swing inHouston, the Astros have a club option for 2013. 

Basically, the Astros have signed Cust to take a look at him in spring training and see if he has anything left to contribute at the plate.   

He was a viable major league hitter inOaklandas recently as 2010, when he had a .392 on base percentage and hit 13 homers.

 Defensive play is another matter altogether.  Even in his prime, the 245 pound veteran was a defensive liability.  He has been used at designated hitter more than any position in his career, but has also seen time in left field and right field. 

Cust will get a good look in right field with the Astros in March along with a number of younger, less-proven players.  Brian Bogusevic, J.B. Shuck and newly-signed Francisco Martinez also have a chance to win the job.


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