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A.J. Hinch calls Astros 'closest-knit group' after pregame meeting

LOS ANGELES -- The Houston Astros conducted a rare, mid-series pregame meeting Saturday to discuss the impending arrival of new closer Roberto Osuna, who is finishing up a 75-game suspension under Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy.

Astros owner Jim Crane was present, as were general manager Jeff Luhnow and fourth-year manager A.J. Hinch.

Hinch did not provide details on the meeting, which took place inside the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium a little more than two hours before first pitch. But he praised his team when asked how the players have handled the development, saying, "We have probably the closest-knit group that I've ever been around in my career."

"We're doing well," Hinch said. "We're doing quite well."

Osuna will be added to the active roster Sunday, at which point he will address the team and then take questions from the media. Justin Verlander, notably outspoken against former Astros prospect Danry Vasquez after Vasquez was released by the team for assaulting a woman, said he is "just going to sit back and listen."

"I don't have any idea what it's going to go like," Verlander said after pitching the Astros to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. "I don't presume to know anything. Obviously it's a very sensitive subject. I'm going to use my brain and just try to sit back and objectively listen to what he has to say."

Osuna was arrested and charged with assault in Toronto on May 8. He was put on administrative leave by the league, then given the third-longest suspension since MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association began the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy in 2015.

Few details have emerged about the incident, but a restraining order was placed on Osuna, prohibiting him from being within 100 meters of the alleged victim. Osuna's attorney, Domenic Basile, pleaded not guilty on his behalf on June 18 and recently told reporters he was hoping to obtain a peace bond that would essentially drop the charges in exchange for good behavior. Osuna's next court date is scheduled for Sept. 5.

Asked if the team meeting alleviated concerns about Osuna's presence becoming a distraction, Hinch said: "I think there's always going to be extra attention. I don't think it could go any other way, to be honest. It's very difficult on a personal level, very difficult on a private level and on a baseball level. This is something that we fully understand. We are gathering information on a day-to-day basis."

On the field, Osuna addresses what might be the only vulnerability on an Astros team that is coming off a World Series championship and sits in first place with a 70-41 record entering Saturday. Osuna, 23 and controllable through 2021, was an All-Star last year who has already accumulated 104 saves, adding a 2.87 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and a 6.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Astros parted with three pitchers -- notably former closer Ken Giles -- to acquire Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. He will eventually settle in as their closer, but Hinch was noncommittal as to when that might take place.

Before the meeting, his players were reticent about the subject of Osuna joining them.

"That's a situation where I don't really have anything," Astros right fielder George Springer said. "I know what he can do on the field, and I'll go from there."

"I'm not going to talk about that right now," said reliever Collin McHugh, the Astros' MLBPA representative. "Until Roberto gets here and we're able to kind of all meet him and kind of introduce ourselves and welcome him into the clubhouse, it's still a lot of stuff to be done. Once he gets here, though, we expect to have him be a part of our team pretty quickly."