Hader gets nod as Astros closer; Pressly to setup role

February 14th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros first-year manager Joe Espada made sure one of the team’s biggest questions entering Spring Training was addressed before camp started. Espada revealed Wednesday that left-hander will be the team’s closer, meaning incumbent closer will pitch in a setup role in 2024.

Espada said he met with both Hader and Pressly simultaneously in his office on Tuesday and told them about his decision. Hader was expected to be named closer at some point after the Astros signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract last month, but Pressly’s track record as Houston’s closer over the last four years has been stellar.

“I think both guys want the best for this team,” Espada said. “I think the ultimate goal is to hold that trophy at the end of the year, and I think both guys were on board.”

Pressly had been the Astros closer since the 2020 season and is one of only six relievers to compile at least 100 saves since. An All-Star with Houston in ‘19 and ‘21, he’s saved 90 games over the past three seasons and is a perfect 14-for-14 in save chances in the postseason, including the clinching Game 6 of the 2022 World Series.

Pressly wasn’t available Wednesday to discuss the decision, but both Hader and Espada maintain Pressly is on board with it.

“When we first signed, Ryan reached out to me and we had conversations beforehand to see how everybody is doing,” Hader said. “That’s ultimately what our goal is, to just build that relationship and just win ballgames at the end of the day. I know a lot of things can get stirred up on the outside and try to paint a picture that’s not it. For him and I, we’ve had a great relationship so far and will try to build off that.”

Hader turned in a stellar 2023 for the Padres, pitching to a 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings. He held opposing hitters to a .163 average and just a .224 slugging percentage. Hader has long been one of MLB’s most durable relievers. He has pitched 50 or more innings in every full season (not counting ‘20) since ‘18, and his lone stint on the injured list in his career came after he tested positive for COVID-19.

“They’ve both been so successful,” Espada said. “I feel more comfortable, you know, giving Hader that opportunity since he has shown the ability to do it, but the same as Pressly. Pressly’s just not going to pitch the ninth inning. Pressly is as successful as Josh Hader has been in that closer role. Right now, Hader will pitch the ninth inning when both guys are available.”

Hader said knowing his role and having a routine is important.

“We have routines as baseball players, and when you’re able to get in that routine and know exactly what you have to accomplish, it makes the whole outcome of baseball games better,” Espada said. “You perform better because you know what you have to do to accomplish that.”