Brett Myers to be Astros' closer

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brett Myers, who started 66 of the 67 games in which he played during his first two seasons with the Houston Astros, will be the team's closer this year.

"I know I'm going to enjoy it," said Myers, Houston's opening day starter last year. "It's something that I've done before. I want to give it another shot, see if I can."

The 31-year-old right-hander has 94 wins in 249 career starts, including a 7-14 record with a 4.46 ERA for the Astros last season. He saved 21 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007 after starting that season in the rotation.

"I look at it as a challenge for me. I like challenges," he said. "They asked me about it and ... I've always wanted to do it. I didn't like getting taken out of the role in '07, but we won the World Series the next year so it worked out for us."

The move came out of necessity for the Astros, who lost 106 games in 2011. New general manager Jeff Luhnow came up with the idea about three weeks ago.

"We have a lot of options in the rotation to replace his innings," Luhnow said, "and I really felt like our options in that role weren't good, with (Brandon) Lyon coming back from his injury and young guys who haven't done that role yet. I really wanted to make sure that we don't put extra pressure on the team, not being able to close out games."

Mark Melancon, who replaced Lyon as the closer last year, was traded to Boston in December. Lyon had surgery to repair tears in his right rotator cuff and labrum, plus a problem with the biceps tendon, and he says his recovery is ahead of schedule.

The Astros lost 28 games by one run last year and saved only 25 of 50 opportunities, the lowest total and worst percentage in the major leagues.

"This is going to put us in a situation to maybe win some of those games," said manager Brad Mills. "The more you think about it, it really helps the rest of the bullpen slot up, and an extra starting position is going to open up."

Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and J.A. Happ are in Houston's rotation and 37-year-old Livan Hernandez, a non-roster invitee, has the inside track to a fourth spot. Jordan Lyles, Lucas Harrell, Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland and non-roster Zach Duke are among the pitchers competing for the fifth spot.

"They told me it was probably the best decision for the team if I did close, and I'm all for that," Myers said. "It's going to be good to come out of spring training and know that's my role. I'll be able to start out as a closer instead of stretching my arm out to be a starter."


Hernandez will start the Astros' exhibition opener against Washington on Saturday, and Happ will start Sunday against Atlanta ... Catcher Jason Castro, recovering from off-season knee and foot surgeries, can play in the exhibitions, Mills said, but will be limited to three innings in the early games.