CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first pitch read 101 mph according to the scoreboard at Bright House Field, which was a strong sign for Astros reliever Ken Giles. That's the result of having your mechanics clicking as you'd like and perhaps facing your former team for the first time.
Giles, who was acquired by the Astros from the Phillies in a December trade, gave up three hits and two runs and struck out two batters in one inning of work in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Phillies, but he proclaimed it was the best he's felt this spring.
"The results, you don't want, but this was the best outing I had so far," Giles said. "My timing was great today. The ball was coming out of my hand really well today. I was very, very pleased."
So was manager A.J. Hinch, who noticed Giles had some extra zip against his former teammates. His fastball wound up sitting at 97 mph, and his slider was sharp. Giles was working consecutive days for the first time this spring after throwing in a Minor League intrasquad game Saturday.
"He had a little extra adrenaline today facing his old team, and he got after it with an upper 90s fastball and pretty good slider," Hinch said. "He got nickeled and dimed a little bit for the runs. All in all, a pretty good step forward for him. Being that fresh and that stuff coming out of his hand on the second [consecutive] day for the first time, is a good sign."
Giles said the extra velocity was a product of the work he's put in and not as much about facing his former team. He's working on balance and timing drills to get his hands where they need to be.
"No, I was just getting my timing down, and my mechanics are in sync now and finally coming together, and the ball is going to come out naturally as it will," Giles said. "The slider was great coming out of my hand. They put some good wood on the ball. Off the end of the bat with Cesar [Hernandez, who had an RBI single] and he went the other way with it, and the other guy a slider went right into his bat when I tried to bury it."
Hinch has yet to name a closer, but it's still Giles' job to lose. Of course, incumbent closer Luke Gregerson has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game after suffering a mild oblique strain a month ago, but that should happen in the next few days.
"I just want to go out there and be ready for the season," Giles said. "That's what I want to do is just feel like I'm mentally ready for the game, making sure I'm being consistent before the season starts, and that's what I look for."