Pettitte welcomed in return to Houston

When Andy Pettitte tried to park his car at Minute Maid Park on Friday, the attendant directed him to a different lot than the one he used when he played for the Astros from 2004 through 2006.

”I had to go through about 200 fans out there, and they were all patting me on the back,“ said Pettitte, who returned here as a visitor for the first time since re-signing with the Yankees. ”I thought I might get something thrown at me, but they were actually pretty good to me.“

It was another example of Pettitte's popularity with fans, who have treated him warmly all season despite his role in the Roger Clemens steroids saga. Houston is the shared hometown of Pettitte and Clemens, but only Pettitte was in sight Friday.

Pettitte met with reporters and took one two-part question about Clemens: whether he had talked to Clemens lately, and what their relationship was. He answered the first part, but not the second.

”I haven't talked to Roger,“ Pettitte said, and that was that.

On the farm

■ Reds infielder Jeff Keppinger and outfielder Norris Hopper both started their first Triple-A game of the season in Louisville's 4-1 win over Rochester Saturday night. Keppinger played third base and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored before being lifted late in the game. Hopper was in center field and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Both players are on rehab assignments.

■ Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder, beginning a second rehab stint after a pair of shoulder operations, threw five scoreless innings on Saturday night for Double-A Springfield. The left-hander allowed five hits with three strikeouts and no walks in the first game of a doubleheader, throwing 75 pitches.

West Coast update

Giants starter Barry Zito lost his 10th game of the season, worst in the majors, late Friday night when Oakland defeated San Francisco 5-1. Zito (2-10) gave up four runs in 52⁄3 innings.

Short hops

■ Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen was activated from the 15-day disabled list Saturday. Isringhausen had been on the DL since May 16, ostensibly because of a lacerated hand but more to give him time to clear his head and refine mechanics after a stretch of woeful outings. Isringhausen was 1-5 with an 8.00 ERA and six blown saves in 17 chances.

Trot Nixon, acquired by the Mets in a trade the previous night with Arizona, arrived about 25 minutes before the scheduled first pitch Saturday night and was activated for the game against the Rangers. The 34-year-old outfielder was delayed arriving from Triple-A Tucson, where he had been toiling with the Diamondbacks' minor-league club since failing to make the big-league roster out of spring training.

■ Florida State catcher Buster Posey, the No. 5 overall pick by the Giants in last week's draft, won the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's top player Saturday. UK outfielder Sawyer Carroll was one of eight semifinalists for the award.