KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When he finally got his chance to close last year with the Phillies, hard-throwing Ken Giles was splendid. He saved 15 of 18 games in the second half of the season, posting a 1.72 ERA and serving notice that he could be one of the game's top young closers.
The Astros saw that, too, which is why they traded four players for him to likely be their closer in 2015. At 25 years old, with five years of team control remaining and a 100-mph fastball, Giles is poised to become the club's biggest breakout story in his first full season in Houston.
"I believe I can be successful in any role," Giles said. "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 the role of Phillies closer from Jonathan Papelbon in late July and in his 20 combined appearances in August and September, posted a 1.21 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings pitched with a .159 opponent batting average.
His power fastball is his bread and butter, but his slider can buckle hitters.
"He's very serious in his work," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He doesn't ease into his outings. He's very intense. He's got powerful stuff, and he knows it. He attacks hitters. There's a seriousness to him when he competes, and I've learned to accept that's his personality. He's blended in fine in every respect."
Hinch has yet to anoint Giles as the closer, but considering incumbent closer Luke Gregerson just made his first Grapefruit League appearance on Sunday because of a mild strained oblique, it's hard to imagine Giles won't be getting the ball in the ninth inning.
The power stuff at the back of the bullpen was something the Astros missed last year, especially in the playoffs, and Giles brings that and then some.
"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."