Astros' closer role still to be cast

Hinch could 'mix and match' bullpen, rather than depending on one ninth-inning arm

March 30th, 2016
Astros manager A.J. Hinch is "trying to deflate some of the eagerness of status" by potentially not naming a closer outright. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Who is going to begin the season as the Astros' closer? The team has yet to announce anything, even though the big trade that landed Ken Giles from the Phillies at the Winter Meetings was made with the intent of Giles being the closer.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said earlier this week he doesn't feel a need to formally declare a closer, though he likely will. Luke Gregerson did a solid job as closer last year, but he only pitched in one Grapefruit League game in Florida because of a mild oblique strain. Giles, meanwhile, allowed seven runs, 11 hits and struck out six in 8 1/3 innings this spring.

"I will certainly, first and foremost, make sure our players will have a complete understanding of what my plan is going into the season," Hinch said Monday. "I'm not into ... [standing] at the podium and [declaring] something before I really need to, and I'm not sure I really need to. We have a really good bullpen that can mix and match in a lot of different ways. I understand the intrigue. I don't play fantasy baseball, so I don't have to worry about the save."

Hinch said naming a closer doesn't necessarily mean that's who he will give the ball to in the ninth inning of a close game every time.

"I mean, ideally, we all know our place in the world and have the ability to prepare for the role in which we're asked to do," he said. "I don't see it as an end-all, be-all moment. I think it can change. In the first road game in the ninth inning of a tie game, whoever I bring in could very well be our closer. I just choose to use him in a non-closing situation.

"I'm trying to deflate some of the eagerness of status. I'd like our bullpen to be good, and I'd like all of them to embrace pitching to help us win, which they do. We will line it up accordingly like most people are accustomed to it. It doesn't mean the same guy is going to get the save all the time."