Front-runner: Jose Veras
The Houston Astros enter the AL West in 2013 with hopes of returning to their winning ways of years past. One important position that will need to exhibit some sort of consistency is the closer’s role. The Astros tried to address their concerns at closer by signing Jose Veras to a one-year, $2 million contract this past offseason.
Veras has shown the ability to strike out batters, with a career average of 9.4 K/9, but has only recorded five saves in his entire seven-year career.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Veras can make up to an additional $500,000 in incentives for games finished.
Contenders: Wesley Wright, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz, Josh Fields
The Astros are pretty thin in major league experience in the bullpen.
Rhiner Cruz appeared in 52 games for the Astros last season but pitched to a high 6.05 ERA.
Wesley Wright has been in the Astros 'pen for a few years now and has shown an ability to get outs. His 9.0 K/9 career average is very good and could get the nod to close if Veras doesn’t pan out.
Xavier Cedeno also is a strong young arm in the Astros bullpen who has averaged 9.9 K/9 for his short career.
Another possible candidate could be Rule 5 pickup Josh Fields, who pitched to a combined 2.01 ERA with the Boston Red Sox Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
Who Wins this Closer Battle?
The Astros seem to be ready to hand over the closing reins to Veras. They have provided plenty of opportunity for him to secure the position. If he falters, however, they could look to one of the young arms to fill the void.
Veras should leave camp with the job, but don’t be surprised if someone else finishes the season with the role.