KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros manager Bo Porter said Monday morning the task of finding a pitcher or a combination of pitchers to successfully handle the role of closer will be job one this spring. That's no shocker considering the Astros have blown 48 saves in 111 chances the last two years, which is a Major League-low 56.8 save percentage in that span.
"When you look at the woes in which we had in our bullpen last year. It's something we set out as an organization to make sure we rectified. We brought in some guys that have the ability to rectify that portion of our ballclub, and I'm anxious to see how it plays out," Porter said.
Porter said newcomers Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers will all be considered for closer, along with Josh Fields, who handled the role for part of last season as a rookie after Jose Veras was traded. Qualls spent parts of three seasons as a closer with the D-backs.
"We'll figure out as the course of spring goes on and the season goes on who's best suited for that role, but it will be collectively a group effort to get those late outs in the back end of the game," Porter said. "I think it's totally open because I think competition brings out the best in all of us. And it's something that we're going to let these guys compete and let the competition tell us who should actually have that role."
Ideally, the Astros would like to have one closer, but Porter knows that might not be the case for the start of the season.
"When you have that guy, that's the ninth-inning guy and you know when it's a save situation he's going to get the ball every time," he said. "Unfortunately, we're not at that point, as far as our team would go. I'm glad we have a multitude of guys capable of manning that role. Again, we'll let that competition play itself out and I believe one of these guys, if not two or three of these guys, are going to step up. It's a good problem to have if you have everyone throw well and now you look and you feel like you have a closer in the seventh, eighth and ninth."
In addition to experience, which could give Qualls a leg up, the ability to induce weak ground balls is what Porter is looking for in a closer.
"If they do get in trouble, they have something that can get them out of trouble," he said. "They have to be able to get righties and lefties out because when you bring in a closer, you don't want to feel like you need to match him up against the opposite hitter. I also think experience plays a huge role in doing that job. It's a guy that's been there and understands the moment. The moment is never going to get too big for him. That's important as well."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.