HOUSTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Outfielder Brian L. Hunter, a two-time American League stolen base champion, returned to the Houston Astros on Monday by signing a two-year contract.
The free agent played 83 games for the Philadelphia Phillies last season, hitting .276 with six doubles, two homers, 16 RBI and 14 stolen bases. He ranked second among National League pinch-hitters with a .364 (12-for-33) average, trailing only Mark Johnson of the New York Mets (.407).
The 30-year-old Hunter made his major league debut with the Astros in 1994 and spent his first full major league season in Houston in 1996. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in a nine-player deal on December 10, 1996.
"The Astros were accused of trading away the next Kenny Lofton back in 1996 when we traded Brian to Detroit," general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "His return gives us a speed element that is missing on our club as well as adding a center fielder who can play the corners.
Hunter's best season was with the Tigers in 1997, when he hit .269 and led the AL with 74 stolen bases. After being traded to the Seattle Mariners during the 1999 season, he swiped 44 bases to lead the league for a second time.
Hunter also has played for the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds and is a career .264 hitter with 255 stolen bases.