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Veras arrives at camp as frontrunner to close


KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The opportunity to be a full-time closer for the first time in his career is one Jose Veras isn't taking lightly. Veras, who signed a one-year deal with Houston and reported to camp Tuesday, is thankful for any opportunity at this point in his career.

"I feel very blessed," the 32-year-old said. "I appreciate every day, every step in my life, every second in my life. Every time I put on a uniform, I feel like I've been blessed."

The Astros aren't saying Veras will be their closer to start the year, but he's certainly the leading candidate after considering the lack of experience in the Houston bullpen. Veras has pitched in 327 big league games, but has only five saves with a 4.01 ERA.

"I just focus on doing my job, no matter what position and what spot they use me," he said. "I don't focus on one thing because I don't think that makes sense. I focus on doing my job to make my team win ballgames. That's the best part of the game."

Astros manager Bo Porter would be comfortable with Veras closing games.

"If you're going to take a chance on someone to be a first-time closer, that's the type of guy you want," Porter said. "We do have other pitchers that will get an opportunity to pitch late in the game, whether it's [Rhiner] Cruz, who had a really good winter league, or [Hector] Ambriz. There are others who will get a look, but Veras has the experience right now and is the front-runner."

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