The Houston Astros have had only a few questions that have lingered over Spring Training. Who will be in the start rotation? Answered because of Lance McCullers' sore shoulder. Who would be the first baseman? Answered with the demotion of Jon Singleton. Finally, who would be the closer?
Astros manager A.J. Hinch answered that questions during a meeting following the postponement of Monday's opener against the New York Yankees. Hinch is going with the incumbent Luke Gregerson over the challenger Ken Giles -- as reported by MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
Hinch said he let Gregerson know he's the "primary closer."— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) April 4, 2016
Gregerson, 31, signed a $18.5 million, three-year deal with Astros before the 2015 offseason. In 2015, he took over the closer role for the first time in his seven-year pro career. He posted a 7-3 record with a 3.10 ERA with 31 saves in 36 opportunities.
Gregerson was all-in-all solid for the Astros in the closer role even as a contract-first pitcher. It may not have been a surprise that the team was looking to upgrade the position this offseason.
The Astros traded for Giles on Dec. 12, sending LHP Brett Oberholtzer, RHP Harold Arauz, RHP Mark Appel, RHP Thomas Eshelman and RHP Vincent Velasquez to the Philadelphia Phillies for Giles and shortstop Jonathan Arauz.
A steep price for a 25-year-old reliever with just 115 2/3 innings under his belt. But, Giles was lights out with Phillies in 2015. He was 6-3 with a 1.80 ERA, 87 strikeouts to 25 walks, and 15 saves in 20 opportunities in 70 innings.
At the moment, this decision isn't necessarily a surprise other than not using a player that cost a ransom to get. The goal of the bullpen is to close out games. Giles and Gregerson will both help the team if they complete the eighth and ninth inning in whatever order.