NEW YORK -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch ended weeks of speculation Monday morning by announcing veteran right-hander Luke Gregerson would open the season as the team's "primary closer," meaning newcomer Ken Giles will pitch in different roles to begin the season.
The Astros acquired the hard-throwing Giles in December in a seven-player deal with the Phillies with the thought he would take over as the closer, though the team never announced its plans for him. Hinch's comfort level with Gregerson and Giles' struggles in the spring prompted Hinch to tab Gregerson as the closer to start the year, though things could change as the season progresses.
"I've let both players know where they stand with me," Hinch said at Yankee Stadium, where the Astros-Yankees season opener was postponed until Tuesday. "We're going to have a really good bullpen. We're going to have a dynamic bullpen that can get a lot of outs in a lot of different ways. I'm very happy with that. We're going to need every bit of that to get where we want to go. How we sort it out is not all that complicated."
Hinch emphasized he didn't feel the need to have to make an announcement about who would close because he plans on using Gregerson and Giles in high-leverage situations, but he said it was important the players know where they stand to begin the season.
Gregerson, 31, converted 31 of 36 save chances for Houston last season, and he told reporters when he reported to Spring Training that he felt he deserved to remain the closer. Giles, 25, converted 15 saves and posted a 1.80 ERA in 69 games for Philadelphia last season, but he had a 6.75 ERA in the spring.
"I'm going to have Giles pitch in a couple of different roles, depending on what the highest-leverage situation of the game would be," Hinch said. "That's not to say Giles isn't going to get a lot of saves; not to say Giles isn't going to close some games. But for the purposes of getting guys prepared, it's important they know generally how they're going to be used.
"That's not a failure on the part of Ken Giles not being the closer, that's not an assignment Luke Gregerson is going to have every single outing he has as the closer. I have the luxury of having a lot of different options. I'm going to use them."
Giles could certainly take over as the team's closer at some point this year and beyond. He's under team control for another five years and appears to be a big part of the Astros' future. But it's Gregerson who will get the ball with the lead in the ninth inning to start the season.
"Where [Giles] he starts on April 4 vs. what outs he gets on any given day throughout the season could change," Hinch said. "To win at this level and go deep into the playoffs, you're going to need guys to be dynamic, and we acquired one of the most dynamic relievers available last winter. And I'm going to use him."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
The owner of a lifetime 2.79 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, Gregerson saved 31 games in his first season with Houston in 2015 and may produce a notably higher total in '16, given the club's lofty outlook. Regardless of league size, all fantasy owners should look for the right-hander on waivers. Giles owners have a right to be frustrated -- as the former Phils closer was oft-picked in the first 10 rounds of drafts this spring -- but they should not be so quick to hit the "drop" button. The 25-year-old can post a high strikeout total and low ratios in a setup role, and he could still be a top-tier closer if Gregerson falters this season.