Astros introduce new bullpen ace Giles

Club not announcing newly acquired righty as closer yet, but impressed with his fortitude

Astros introduce new bullpen ace Giles

HOUSTON -- Barring an unforeseen turn of events, newly acquired Ken Giles will be the Astros' closer next year. Houston gave up a king's ransom to get him, including former No. 1 pick Mark Appel, and he showed last year that he has the stuff to close games with his 100-mph fastball.

But neither Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow nor manager A.J. Hinch would cross the line and anoint Giles as closer during a news conference Monday to introduce the 25-year-old reliever at Minute Maid Park, and they have their reasons. Giles has yet to even meet any of his new teammates, and what's the rush anyway?

Giles, unless he gets injured or suddenly can't throw strikes, will be announced as Houston's closer at some point this spring. Veteran Luke Gregerson did the role quite well last season, and the Astros have to respect him as well. Hinch said he spoke with Gregerson recently about the addition of Giles and what it means.

"I'm no dummy," Hinch said. "I understand we paid a lot to get Ken Giles, and I understand how trade dynamics work, and I understand the difference between 100 mph and 90 mph, but right now it's nothing we need to address. I have everybody on board, and they want to do what's best for our team. Everybody loves the closer role. The last three outs, there's an adrenaline rush that comes with that. We'll sort it out."

The bottom line now is the addition of Giles -- who was acquired Saturday with 17-year-old shortstop Jonathan Arauz in exchange for Appel, right-handed pitchers Harold Arauz, Thomas Eshelman, Vincent Velasquez, and left-handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer -- fortifies the back end of the bullpen and gives the Astros the swing-and-miss flame-thrower they've coveted.

"I believe I can be successful in any role," Giles said after slipping on a No. 53 jersey. "It doesn't matter what the role. I could be the eighth-inning guy, which I've done before, and I'd be perfectly fine with that, as long as that means helping teammates out and getting that 'W.'"

Giles took over as the Phillies' closer from Jonathan Papelbon in late July, and he posted a 1.80 ERA and went 15 of 20 in save opportunities in 2015. In his 20 combined appearances in August and September, he posted a 1.21 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings with a .159 opponent batting average.

Although he struggled to throw strikes in the Minor Leagues, Giles has refined his arsenal, which includes the power fastball and a hard slider that would make Brad Lidge raise his eyebrows. In addition to the heat, Hinch believes Giles has fortitude to close games, too.

"He's got elite stuff," Hinch said. "It starts with that. As he's been able to harness it in the strike zone and get the swings and misses and soft contact and being able to utilize multiple pitches, not just the 100-mph fastball, he demonstrates that stuff very obviously to any scout or any coach he comes across. What I like that I'm hearing most about him from some coaches that's he's had is his fortitude."

Giles first threw 100 mph during a fall ball game as a sophomore at Yavapai College, which was only fitting. After all, he grew up idolizing fireball-thrower Randy Johnson and will now follow in the footsteps of Billy Wagner, Houston's fireball closer of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"It was one of those things," Giles said. "I was always able to throw hard, but only a select few can be able to [throw 100]. I was a sophomore in college, and it was one of those things that came out of nowhere. I thought I was no big deal, because I just wanted to play the game."

Considering what the Astros gave up for Giles, his fastball is a very big deal.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.