Qualls takes over as full-time closer for Astros

After going with a closer by committed for the first quarter of the season, Astros manager Bo Porter on Friday proclaimed veteran Chad Qualls would be handling the closing duties from now on.

Qualls, 35, had been one of a handful of relievers who have been in the mix to close this season, including Josh Fields, Anthony Bass and Matt Albers. Bass and Albers are on the disabled list and Fields recently returned from Triple-A after struggling to close games, so in a sense it was a decision made via attrition.

“We have a lead in the ninth, Chad Qualls will get the ball,” Porter said. “He’s really been good of late and it actually looks like his [velocity] is back, his heavy sinker has been working — it’s ground ball after ground ball. If we have a lead and he’s available, he’ll get the ball.”

Qualls, who returned to Houston as a free agent in December, has definitely been throwing better. Since blowing a save April 19 at Oakland, he’s recorded nine consecutive scoreless outings, with nine strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. As a team, the Astros have converted only seven of 15 save chances

“You look at the early woes we had in our bullpen, we didn’t have too many guys who were throwing the ball well,” Porter said. “I think this last stretch in which we got going, things are starting to come together and Chad has thrown the ball extremely well.”

Qualls has extensive experience closing games. He converted 24 of 29 save chances in 2009 with Arizona and 12 of 16 with the D-backs in 2010. He’s two of three in save situations for the Astros this year.

Porter doesn’t buy into the notion relief pitchers perform better when their rolls are defined.

“I’ve always said this: when the phone rings and you’re name is called, whatever the situation is, it’s your job to execute in that situation,” Porter said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning, eight inning, ninth inning. When you’re on a team and you’re called to execute a situation, it’s your job to do the best you can to execute.”


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