KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Maybe the bright lights of Osceola County Stadium, facing his former team and a one-run lead in the ninth inning, was all Astros reliever Ken Giles needed to turn in the kind of effort everyone, including manager A.J. Hinch, had been waiting to see.
Giles, called upon to protect a one-run lead in the ninth Wednesday night against the Phillies, worked his first 1-2-3 inning of the spring, striking out a pair of batters to get his first save. After allowing at least one baserunner in his first five spring outings, his clean line in the Astros' 2-1 win was the stuff of a closer-in-waiting.
"It's the best he's thrown this spring, so it's nice to see him put it all together," said Hinch, who has yet to anoint Giles as the closer. "You know, obviously, in the eighth or ninth inning he was going to throw, but the stuff out of his hand was really, really good, had good feel for his slider. Velocity is trending in the right direction, so it's a pretty impressive night."
Giles said getting the ball to close out a night game provided more of a comfort zone than pitching in the middle innings of a routine afternoon spring game.
"Night games are a little bit better because that's what we're built to do, play at night," he said. "Overall, the body feels great, pitches felt good, threw some really good sliders up there, and I'm very satisfied about it."
Giles called the outing a "great night," and was noticeably more at ease following the game, joking with reporters that it was near his bed time.
"I know what I'm able to do and what I can do to contribute to a team," he said. "It's just being patient with a body and a mindset and your body will catch up with your mind."
Giles wasn't the only hard-thrower who was impressive in the win. James Hoyt struck out two batters and allowed a walk in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, running his spring ERA to 1.08. In 8 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League play, he's struck out 15 batters.
"He was impressive all night," Hinch said. "His secondary pitches are very, very difficult for the hitter, and he backed it up with velocity, and I think this is one of his better nights as well. I mean, he had the walk at the end, and that's not a great way to end his outing, but as I've said before, he's going to help us. I don't know if it's at the beginning of the season or sometime during the season, but he's making things very interesting for himself."
Meanwhile, hard-throwing starter Michael Feliz allowed three walks, a hit and a run in the first inning before sending down 10 batters in a row. A starter by trade, he's vying for the last spot in the bullpen, which would be long relief.
"I thought he tried to be very perfect low in the zone early in the game and it wasn't necessarily a good approach for him," Hinch said. "But he made an adjustment, and it's what you've seen in Michael Feliz now vs. the version a year ago. He adapted very well and got back into his outing, had a nice adjustment."
Feliz said he'd rather be a starter, but admitted that being on the big league roster in any role is the goal.
"I'm happy because I'm feeling really good where I want to be with my stuff," he said. "I want to be there, I want to go with the team and stay there."