'Glad he's on our team': Hader dazzles fellow Astros stars

February 19th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- All eyes Monday morning were on Astros closer , who took the mound on a back field at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches and wowed his teammates and the fans who were watching closely during his first live batting practice session of the spring.

Hader, a five-time All-Star, signed a five-year, $95 million contract last month with the Astros, for whom he will assume the role as the team’s closer. The signing provided a jolt to a Houston club that once again has World Series aspirations, and now, boasts perhaps the most dominant relief pitching threesome in the game with Hader, Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu.

Hader on Monday threw approximately 30 pitches while facing third baseman Alex Bregman, shortstop Jeremy Peña and first baseman Jon Singleton, each of whom had a front-row seat to see why the lefty has been so dominant.

“He looked great,” Bregman said. “He’s got a good three-pitch mix. He looked sharp for this early in camp.”

Bregman, who reported to camp Sunday, went to the plate swinging and fouled off a few of Hader’s pitchers. Bregman also faced Pressly during live BP.

“Just see some pitches and work on a few things,” Bregman said. “I like to go and swing right away because I want to see where I’m at and work off that.”

Hader said seeing how the hitters react to his stuff was important. His goal was to get weak contact and swings and misses, which he did.

“I felt like I was able to use the changeup and slider a lot to where I can kind of keep them off balance with the fastball,” he said. “Obviously, it’s still early. I think just trying to change timing up a little bit kind of helped from my end.”

Hader has saved 165 career games with the Brewers and Padres, including a career-high 37 saves in 2019 for Milwaukee and 33 in 38 chances last season for the Padres. He posted a 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings and held opposing hitters to a .163 average and just a .224 slugging percentage in '23. Hader has averaged 15 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.

Singleton had never faced Hader before, but he shared a clubhouse with him during Spring Training when both were with the Brewers. Both Singleton and Hader were also top Astros prospects earlier in their careers.

“A lot different than what I expected,” Singleton said. “Seeing him pitch on TV and the broadcast and angle is a lot different than when you see somebody in the box. You can kind of have expectations both ways when you see a left-handed pitcher, but it’s just a lot different than I expected.”

Peña was more to the point in his analysis.

“I’m glad he’s on our team,” he said.