Ryan Pressly is early favorite to resume Astros' closer role

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By SportsRadio 610

(SportsRadio 610) -- With the Astros returning a deeper bullpen than the one relying on a bevy of rookies in the shortened 2020 season, the team has more flexibility in high leverage situations.

Pitching coach Brent Strom said he feels strong about the staff.

They had only two bullpens when Strom spoke with media members Saturday morning, but he mentioned Luis Garcia, Bryan Abreu and Andre Scrubbs as pitchers who stand out early at spring training.

Those are some of the younger arms. The Astros also bring back Joe Smith, who opted out of last season for a family matter.

Free agent signings Pedro Báez, Ryne Stanek and sidearm reliever Steve Cishek (minor league contract) also provide more depth and versatility.

"I like what we have in our bullpen right now. I do like the uniqueness of it," Strom said. "This is what the (Tampa Bay) Rays have done so well in the past. Having guys with different weapons makes it very enjoyable to map out against certain hitters."

As for the closer role, the early favorite is veteran Ryan Pressly. He stepped up as the Astros' closer last year when Roberto Osuna suffered a season-ending injury.

Manager Dusty Baker will later determine who closes. Strom said he believes the Astros have at least four pitchers who possibly fill the role.

"(Pressly) is probably the leader, having been with us," Strom said. "But all of these guys, (Cishek), who has a 132 saves. Joe Smith is fully capable. Baez is fully capable. Even a couple of the lefties, if it works its way out. I'm going to defer to Dusty when that decision will be made on a per game basis."

Pressly converted 11 of his last 13 save chances dating back to Aug. 15, posting a 2.08 ERA (4ER/17.1IP) with 25 strikeouts in his 17.1 innings since that date.

Pressly on Saturday said he feels better going into spring training than he did last year, when he struggled to get to get loose after recovering from knee surgery in 2019.

The mechanical changes he's making this season are making his stride more directional to help with his release point. Pressly said this is part of what led to some inconsistencies last season.

Pressly wanted to get back to his 2019 form, when he was an All-Star before the knee injury.

As for the closer role, Pressly said he's up for it, but knows he'll get the ball in important moments either way.

"I think everybody strives to be the guy who gets the last three outs of the game," Pressly said. "It's a different kind of adrenaline rush when you're closing out a game. But for me, honestly, I just want to get back to the postseason and win a World Series. So I don't really care who's closing games, as long as we get back there.

"In the postseason, you're going to have to get big outs either way. I was getting big outs in the fifth inning and it's just as important as getting outs in the ninth inning. ... It's good to have competition in spring. We push each other. It'll be fun to see what happens and where we are at the start of the season."