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A.J. Hinch (Pretty Much) Says Ken Giles Will Close Games

A long-standing 2016 Spring Training storyline is more or less put to bed early in 2017.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Pitchers and catchers have reported to West Palm Beach, Fla. and baseball is finally back underway. Luckily for Astros manager A.J. Hinch, that means daily media scrums. He must be thrilled.

Among the first (and expected) questions, Hinch was asked who his closer will be at the outset of the 2017 season.

"More times than not (when) the game goes the situation it goes, then Ken Giles is going close," Hinch told reporters Tuesday (via Fox 26's Mark Berman).

This isn't a surprise. Following a rough start to the season, Giles looked like the guy that Houston expected him to be when they traded five players for him and minor league infielder Jonathan Arauz in December of 2015.

From June 1 through the remainder of the season, Giles struck out 74 batters in 44.1 innings of work while limiting opposing hitters to a .210 batting average. Overall, Giles pitched to a 4.11 ERA, but his FIP of 2.86 told a much better story of his effectiveness as his HR/FB ratio spiked immensely in 2016. Giles struck out a career-high 13.98 batters per nine innings and finished with 15 saves.

Giles was expected to be named closer last spring after the blockbuster trade, but the job instead went to Luke Gregerson when the season started. Gregerson was fairly effective in the role for the early stages of the season before struggling with injuries later. Meanwhile, Giles was terrible in April, allowing 10 earned runs in 10 innings. He surrendered 20 earned runs in the remaining 55.2 innings he pitched in 2016.