Ambriz, Valdez could factor in late-inning equation

Ambriz, Valdez could factor in late-inning equation

PITTSBURGH -- Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said Monday he's still trying to get a feel for the back end of the bullpen. The Astros have shuffled their late-inning bullpen alignment often since relievers Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers were traded in July.

Veteran Wilton Lopez remains the closer, though the Astros haven't had many save opportunities. Newcomers Hector Ambriz and Jose Valdez could be getting some of those eighth- and ninth-inning assignments as the season winds down.

The Astros' bullpen allowed five runs in the eighth inning on Sunday's loss to the Reds and has posted a 5.81 ERA since May 26, which has coincided with the club's greater struggles.

"We're going to continue to work on a plan of execution," DeFrancesco said. "I think Hector has shown he can pitch late in the game, and Valdez is probably going to get an opportunity late in the game. Lopez is still our best bullpen guy. You guys saw him last year when he was good and consistent, and we're going to make sure he has a chance to close games for us."

Valdez was called up Saturday after saving 21 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and Ambriz joined the club Aug. 22 after pitching 18 games for the RedHawks. The Astros signed Ambriz as a Minor League free agent on June 21.