Former Mets reliever John Franco has agreed to a

one-year, $700,000 contract with the Houston Astros.

The 44-year-old lefthander, entering his 22nd season, was 2-7 with a 5.28

ERA last year with the Mets.

"Change is good sometimes," Franco said. "I've been [with the Mets] for 15

years. It's not going to kill me to be there for 81 days."

A four-time All-Star, Franco has 424 saves, second only to Lee Smith's 478.

Franco's 1,088 appearances trail only Jesse Orosco (1,252). Overall, Franco is

90-86 with a 2.84 ERA.

Arizona, Baltimore, Florida and Minnesota also inquired, according to

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Franco. He spoke with Houston manager Phil Garner late last week and made his

decision Saturday night. "They were the best offer," Franco said.

Houston appealed to him because he knows Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Dan

Wheeler and Jose Vizcaino. "I just like the guys," Franco said.

Houston is in need of bullpen help, especially after shaky relief pitching

cost them three games in the National League Championship Series and five

overall in the postseason.

Franco has a 0.00 ERA in five games and 5 1/3 innings at hitter-friendly

Minute Maid Park, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's like when you go to Wrigley Field and the wind is blowing out. You

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can't worry about it," he said.

He has looked at the schedule to figure out when he can get back to New

York during the season and when his family can get to Houston.

"My son didn't want me to retire. My wife didn't want me to retire," Franco

said. "They've all been pushing for it: go one more year, go somewhere where

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you're relaxed."