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Porter stresses need for long reliever in 'pen

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When it comes to constructing his bullpen, manager Bo Porter says having someone capable of pitching in long relief is crucial. In fact, Porter prefers to have a pair of long relievers to avoid wear and tear on the bullpen.

"It's something I've always stressed and I've always believed in," he said. "It saves your staff when you do have that unfortunate start as a starter and he gets in trouble early. You're not blowing through guys in the bullpen. You're able to bring in a guy who's stretched out and has starter experience, and he's able to go two or three innings, which saves a bullpen and gives you a chance to win."

Last year, former Astros manager Brad Mills wasn't a believer in having a long-relief pitcher. The Astros will be in the American League this year and, with the exception of Interleague games on the road, won't have pitchers batting, so long relievers will be able to eat up innings without being burned for a pinch hitter.

"The real game starts when the starting pitcher comes out of the game," Porter said. "The best decision a manager is going to make is when to take a starting pitcher out of the game, because it's not just that game today [you have to be concerned about]. A lot of times as a manager, it's a decision you make in the fourth inning who you will bring into that game that's going to affect the next two to three games."