- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Luke Gregerson held onto his job as the Houston Astros closer, beating out newcomer Ken Giles.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the announcement Monday after Houston’s scheduled opener against the Yankees in New York was postponed a day because of wet and cold weather.

Gregerson is a 31-year-old right-hander who went 7-3 with a 3.10 ERA. He converted 31 of 36 save chances last season in this first year in Houston.

“He’s got a slow heartbeat. He’s got a real feel for how to pitch,” Hinch said. “His calmness in the intense moments are critical in giving the guy the ball the last part of the game.”

Houston acquired Giles from the rebuilding Phillies in December as part of a deal that sent 2013 top overall draft pick Mark Appel to Philadelphia. A 25-year-old right-hander, Giles was 6-3 with a 1.80 ERA in 69 games for the Phillies in 2015 and spent the final two months of the season as the closer, converting 15 of 17 save opportunities.

“Ken Giles will be used in a more versatile role,” Hinch said. “The titles and the distinction and the status are secondary to the goal of the night, which is to win the game.”

Gregerson and Giles did not discuss the decision with reporters in the Astros clubhouse.

“We’ve got a long career ahead of Ken Giles, so I think he can work his way into any role,” Hinch said. “So where he starts on April 4 versus what out he gets on any given day throughout the season could change.”

It was 40 degrees and drizzling when the game was called, 4 1/2 hours before the scheduled first pitch for the afternoon start. The game was rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, when the forecast is for sunshine and 40-degree temperatures at game time.

After reaching the playoffs for the first time in a decade and coming within a win of reaching the AL Championship Series, the Astros hope to build on their success.

“We’ve got that same belief we had last year,” outfielder Jake Marisnick said. “The only difference was last year nobody gave us a chance and this year I think they’re pretty high on us.”

AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel is to start for Houston against Masahiro Tanaka of New York in a rematch of last year’s AL wild-card game, won by the Astros 3-0.

“It’s something you dream of since you were a little kid,” said Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who made his big league debut last June and went on to be voted AL Rookie of the Year.

Keuchel was 3-0 against the Yankees last year, including the playoff game, and the left-hander pitched 22 scoreless innings against New York.

“We played a game here last fall that was pretty special in the organization’s history,” Hinch said.

ORDER

Houston’s batting order had second baseman Jose Altuve leading off, followed by right fielder George Springer, Correa, left fielder Colby Ramus, center fielder Carlos Gomez, third baseman Luis Valbuena, designated hitter Preston Tucker, first baseman Marwin Gonzalez and catcher Jason Castro.

STYLING

When Correa spoke with media, he was wearing a Houston jersey - but not of the Astros. Instead, he had on a black jersey of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers, recovering from shoulder soreness, threw a bullpen session in Florida on Sunday and is to throw a few innings in an extended spring training game Thursday. Hinch said if there are not any setbacks, McCullers would be pitching every fifth day, then go on a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.

UP AHEAD

Astros: Because of the rainout, Hinch said Keuchel’s second start, against Milwaukee, has been pushed back a day to Sunday.


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