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Astros players back Hinch managerial hiring

HOUSTON -- New Astros manager A.J. Hinch might not be a name many of the players he'll inherit next year know much about, but relief pitcher Chad Qualls knows the new skipper well, having played for Hinch during his managerial stint with the D-backs.

Hinch, introduced Monday at Minute Maid Park as the Astros' 18th manager, spent parts of the 2009 and '10 seasons managing in Arizona, where Qualls was the team's closer.

"I think it's a good fit for Houston," Qualls said. "Obviously, he's managed in the past and was doing a good job over there in Arizona, and he's gotten a lot more experience in the front office. I think this is something he'll embrace. He's got some guys here that have already been in the big leagues for a little bit and we've got the younger guys that gained some maturity to deal with, but it's a good, fresh start for him."

Astros infielder Gregorio Petit also knows Hinch, though not as well as Qualls. He was playing in the Padres organization when Hinch was the vice president and assistant general manager from 2011 through August of this year, when he resigned.

"I didn't get to know him that much, but from what I saw, he was a real honest guy when I talked to him, which tells you a lot about a man," Petit said. "He knows the game. When you know the guy, it makes it a little easier."

Qualls said Hinch stood by his players in Arizona.

"He'll side with [the players] at all times," Qualls said. "I have nothing but good things to say about him. When he was managing the Diamondbacks, I was closing over there, I ended up hurting my knee and was having a rough season, and he was sticking with me and trying to let me pull through the rough season. He really gave the players the benefit of the doubt and gave them all the opportunities to do what they can. He'll back you 100 percent."

Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel didn't know Hinch prior to Monday, but he said communication will be important with the new manager. A communication breakdown between general manager Jeff Luhnow and former manager Bo Porter led to Porter's dismissal on Sept. 1, and there were communication lapses between Porter and the players as well.

"I think we need to have better communication than we've had in the past couple of years," Keuchel said. "That being said, our job is to go out and play. I think we did that a lot better this year. I just think he needs to come in and deal with everybody, but let everybody play and have a relaxed environment."

The thought of having a new manager does bring excitement, Keuchel said.

"We're all excited," he said. "With the way season ended, we're all ready to play again."

Like Hinch, Jason Castro played catcher at Stanford under legendary coach Mark Marquess, though he's never met Hinch.

"We came through the same organization so I know probably a lot of the same values and things were instilled in us going through coach Marquess' program at Stanford, and I'm sure a lot of the stories are the same," Castro said. "I've heard good things about him and heard from a few guys that have come into contact with him or have met him in the past. I'm excited to meet him moving forward and get a chance to see his managerial prowess and the kind of baseball we'll be playing under him."

Castro said having a manager who's played for several years in the Major Leagues will help him relate to the players.

"I think probably someone who really kind of understands the game and gets the best out of his players and can relate to his players from that aspect," he said. "A guy who played himself for quite a while understands the daily grind and the intrinsic qualities of a baseball team and can relate to a lot of those. In that regard, he should have an inside track with the guys, and at the same time, pushing players and expecting the best out of them and getting guys to play to the best of their ability."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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