The Astros recently traded closer Jose Veras to Detroit for a young outfield prospect and a player to be named later. Hector Ambriz who started the year as Veras’ setup man proved to be ineffective and has been demoted to AAA. That leaves a gaping hole to be filled at the back end of the Houston bullpen. Who will step up to fill the void? The Astros bullpen is in a state of of transition. Chia-Jen Lo and Josh Zeid have been called up from the minors to take the roster spots vacated by Veras and Ambriz. Although neither had ever pitched in the big leagues prior to this week both Lo and Zeid have pretty good track records. The opportunity is there for one or both of these guys to nail down a spot as a late innings reliever in Houston. Bo Porter has proclaimed that he will be employing the dreaded “bullpen by committee” strategy (at least temporarily). I added the part in parentheses because Porter has been known to change his mind at the drop of a hat. Bo did go on to say that he is hopeful that someone will emerge from the group to become the regular closer. Until that happens we can get used to seeing Astros relievers used in a variety of roles. Last night’s extra inning contest in Minnesota proved to be a valuable yardstick for measuring the performances of multiple relievers in pressure-filled situations. I’m not suggesting that Porter should make his decision based on only one game but I am hoping that Bo took some notes that he can use when the time comes to make a choice. Jarred Cosart had another fantastic outing and turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead. These are the types of games that a team with a strong bullpen usually wins. But as we’ve already established the Astros aren’t a team with a strong bullpen. Jose Cisnero who is probably the first choice of most fans to fill the role of closer was the first pitcher summoned from the ‘pen. Cisnero has been used in high leverage situations in the recent past but with mixed results. Jose would have another rough outing giving up a run on three hits while only managing to retire one batter. Cisnero would leave with the game tied and a pair of runners on base. Fortunately Wesley Wright and Josh Fields were able to strand those runners — otherwise Cisnero could have been on the hook for his third loss of the year. Instead Jose was charged with his second blown save. Cisnero may be the Astros best option at closer but his recent struggles would suggest the timing isn’t right. His current stretch of ineffectiveness has produced the type of results that would get most closers demoted from the role. Over his last nine appearances Cisnero has allowed eight earned runs in only seven innings pitched raising his ERA from 2.27 to 3.59. I’m a believer in Cisnero for the long haul because he has great stuff. But right now I think he needs to be utilized in more low pressure situations until he gets back on track.
Who Will Emerge As Astros Closer?
Climbing Tal's Hill | Aug 4