Astros manager Brad Mills informed the media Tuesday that veteran Brett Myers will be the club’s closer to start the 2012 season.
The idea to move Myers from the top of the starting rotation to the closer role had been an ongoing discussion for nearly three weeks between Mills, general manager Jeff Luhnow and Myers.
With the Astros battling a lack of depth and several question marks regarding the closer role this spring, it appears to be a logical decision.
“After a lot of discussions and so forth, we decided that Brett Myers would be our closer,” Mills said. “Jeff brought the idea to me. I think it’s kind of exciting for everybody. Here’s a guy that has done it before. He has the ability, the desire and the competitive nature to do it. Last night, I had a really long talk with Brett. He seemed really excited about it. There’s no way we would do something like this if Brett wasn’t completely on board. He is on board. He likes the chance to pitch three to four times a week, as opposed to one. It really helps out our bullpen.”
Mills has a lot of confidence in the starting pitching candidates in camp and views the situation as a “win-win” scenario for the club.
Veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez will likely serve as the ace, while Bud Norris and J.A. Happ each move up a spot on the depth chart.
Henry Sosa, Jordan Lyles, Lucas Harrell, Paul Clemens, Zach Duke and Livan Hernandez are currently in the mix for a spot in the rotation.
“The number of starting candidates played a little role in this,” Mills said. “This has been a few weeks in which this thing has been talked about. I think it’s exciting to have the confidence in the guy we’re putting in there. This puts us in a situation to win a lot of one-run games. After Jeff brought it to me, I took a couple of days and began to see the benefits of it. I’m excited about it.”
Myers, a workhorse as a starting pitcher, was previously the closer with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 2007 regular season.
The veteran righty is 5-6 with a 3.41 ERA and 21 saves over 58 career relief appearances as a member of the Phillies and Astros.
Myers is completely on board with the move.
“They called me about three weeks ago to ask me if I’d do it,” Myers said. “I told them I would think about it. I need to see if I could do it, since I haven’t closed in five years. I feel like I can do it. They told me it’s probably best for the team. So, I was all for that.”
Myers enjoys the challenge it takes to be a closer.
“You enjoy the chance to play every day,” Myers said. “As a starter, you have to wait four days between your starts. As a closer, you keep the adrenaline going. Every time that phone rings, it could be you. It’s definitely real fun. I just have to stay healthy.”
Unlike the 2007 campaign with the Phillies, Myers will have a chance over the course of Spring Training to transition into a closer.
“I started three games before moving to the bullpen,” Myers said. “I was a seventh and eighth inning guy when they [the Phillies] first moved me down there. Tom Gordon got injured, and they moved me into the closer role. It’s going to be good this time to come out of Spring Training fully prepared. I’ll be able to start off the regular season as a closer and know my role.
“Hopefully, it pans out for me.”
As Myers moves forward this spring, he will adjust his overall mindset toward the role and do what’s necessary to succeed in 2012.
“It’s a different mindset,” he said. “As a starter, you try to go six to seven innings. As a closer, you need to get three outs. The pitch selection is different. You don’t have to set a hitter up for later in the game. You can go out there and throw your best stuff.”
It’s unclear at this point how Mills plans to utilize right-handers Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez and David Carpenter in the late innings.
Lyon continues to work toward bouncing back this spring after missing the majority of last season as the result of undergoing surgery.
For now, he’s somewhat of an enigma.
Lopez and Carpenter have the potential to close out games, but they lack experience at the role and can help the club in other aspects.
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