HOUSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch managed his bullpen tactfully in the postseason last year, using starters like Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton in pivotal moments in relief, especially after closer Ken Giles struggled in the World Series.Hinch has been steadfast that Giles is his closer entering this
HOUSTON -- Astros manager AJ Hinch managed his bullpen tactfully in the postseason last year, using starters like Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton in pivotal moments in relief, especially after closer Ken Giles struggled in the World Series.
Hinch has been steadfast that Giles is his closer entering this season, but Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski have also closed out games this year. Giles was deemed unavailable when Peacock got his save last Sunday against the Padres, and Hinch said Devenski got the save on Friday in part because he was already warmed up when the Astros took the lead in the eighth and there was a pocket of lefties coming up in the ninth.
Hinch said the schedule, matchups and way the games have played out haven't been conducive to using Giles as much as he'd like. The two have met and discussed Giles' role, Hinch said.
"He's a team guy and understands what we're doing," Hinch said. "He wants to pitch a little bit more regularly, and I don't blame him. I haven't done a good enough job incorporating him into the mix if I'm not going to close him. I'll do a better job of that for him."
Giles converted 34 of 38 save chances for the Astros in the regular season last year, posting a 2.30 ERA and striking out 83 in 62 2/3 innings. In the playoffs, he allowed 10 earned runs and 12 hits in 7 2/3 innings, and he wasn't used after being rocked in Game 4 of the World Series.
In addition to Giles, Peacock and Devenski, relievers Will Harris, Hector Rondon and Joe Smith are also candidates to close out games.
"I think that at the end of the season Ken Giles will have the most saves, but I don't know," Hinch said. "I don't know how the next five months are going to play out. I don't really care. I want us to finish games strong and I want our guys to be ready to pitch when they're to pitch."
Hinch expects a little bit more of a routine to emerge in who closes games, with Giles firmly in the picture as long as he's effective.
"Any given day, I feel the liberty to use any one of our guys," Hinch said. "I think our guys are on board. It's unfair to point the finger at Ken Giles at not being the closer, which is not necessarily the case. I just think there's been some extreme examples of matchups that we like and some rest period for guys like Peacock and Devenski, particularly, that I really liked.
"Unfortunately, that puts a lot of pressure on Ken or gives a lot of attention to the ninth inning or makes it look a little bit more unique in the game, but for this particular stretch that's been the case. I don't know if it's going to be that way moving forward because I also remember when Ken Giles was extremely effective for a three- or four-month period in the middle of the season to the tail end of the season last year where it didn't matter who was coming up or where we were in the order or what rest we had, he was the guy to go to."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.