Hinch leads Astros into familiar territory

Hinch leads Astros into familiar territory

SAN DIEGO -- This week's series against the Padres marks a homecoming of sorts for Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who spent four years with San Diego before being hired by Houston at the end of last season.

Hinch, who moved his family from San Diego to Houston in the winter, joined the Padres in 2010 and worked for them until August 2014, serving in a variety of roles that included interim general manager. He was the assistant general manager when he resigned.

"It's neat," Hinch said Monday from the visitor's dugout at Petco Park. "I have a lot of fond memories here. We worked hard behind the scenes when I was in the front office, a lot of personal relationships with the coaching staff here and some of the players. It's always nice to see familiar faces, old friends.

"You hug it out during the pregame and turn the dial to competition pretty quickly. I loved it here. There's a lot of great people in this organization. They were great to me and my family during my time here. I'm happy to return to San Diego."

As far as the players go, the Padres have undergone a drastic transformation under new general manager A.J. Preller. San Diego made 10 trades from the end of the season until Opening Day, with acquisitions that include Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Will Middlebrooks and Craig Kimbrel. They also signed pitcher James Shields as a free agent.

"It's a big face lift, so to speak, and a lot of different names and a little bit of a different approach, trading away some of the younger guys and adding to the payroll," Hinch said. "Some big names came through here. They were the most active team in the game. … I love what they're doing and how they're going for it or putting the team forward. I hope they struggle the next three days."

Hinch is especially close with Padres manager Bud Black, who helped guide Hinch when he interviewed for managerial jobs with the Astros (prior to 2013) and the Cubs.

"I didn't know him before I came to work for the Padres, but I got pretty close to him and worked with him day to day with our team," Hinch said. "He's very good with players and loves to compete. We've talked baseball so much over the last few years. … I love competing against him and will definitely want to beat him, but I have a lot of respect for him."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.