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Porter hesitant to anoint Qualls as closer

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PHOENIX -- Manager Bo Porter doesn't like the term "closer."

Chad Qualls leads the team in saves with seven and is who fans will likely see when the Astros have a small lead in the ninth inning, but he isn't the club's "closer" if you ask Porter.

"We have a lead in the ninth, Chad Qualls will get the ball," Porter said.

But Porter prefers the term "highest-leverage relief pitcher," as suggested by a reporter. The skipper added that he'd rather manage his bullpen on a game-by-game basis.

"You can technically say, 'Well, this is the ninth-inning guy, this is the eighth-inning guy,'" Porter said. "And because he's the eighth-inning guy, you bring the eighth-inning guy in the game, and now he faces three righties. They go boom-boom-boom, and you're sitting on the bus and you're like, 'Now how exactly did that happen?'"

Asked why other managers don't do the same, Porter said, "I manage the Astros."

Seventh, eighth or ninth inning, Qualls has succeeded in every situation Porter has put him in. In his 11 ninth-inning appearances, he has a 2.45 ERA. In the eighth inning, he has been even better, pitching 8 2/3 innings and giving up two runs -- a 2.08 ERA.

Qualls is in the midst of the best season of his career, as he owns a 2.18 ERA in 23 appearances. His previous best (2.61) came last season with the Marlins.

Qualls also has career-best numbers in WHIP (1.065), strikeouts per nine innings (9.6) and fielding independent pitching (2.16).

"He's done a tremendous job," Porter said. "You look, his velocity is back, his sinker is better than ever and he's pitching with a lot of confidence."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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