12/12/09 6:13 PM EST
Astros, Lyon finalize three-year deal
Right-hander is front-runner for closer role in Houston
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
"I think in closing the pressure definitely is all on your shoulders," Lyon said. "But I think in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, you come into a close game and there's pressure in that, too. I haven't been able to decipher between [closer and setup], except for you get known more as a closer. Other than that, the pressure is still on and I'm ready to do any role."
Houston acquired Lyon a day after it traded for hard-throwing reliever Matt Lindstrom of the Florida Marlins, giving the Astros two pitchers with experience closing games. Wade said it will be up to manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg to set their roles, but he said both Lindstrom and Lyon are capable closers.
"We believe that with Lindstrom and Brandon, we've got very capable guys in the eighth and ninth inning," Wade said. "Certainly, what Brandon has accomplished over the course of his career, we've got great confidence in whatever role is established and that he'll excel at it.
"His time in Arizona, he was outstanding in our league. He closed games for the Diamondbacks and was very successful in that role. He went over to Detroit this past season and acted as a setup man and his numbers speak for themselves."
Lyon was 6-5 with a 2.86 ERA in 65 relief appearances with Detroit last season. In 78 2/3 innings, he gave up 31 walks, nine of which were intentional, and struck out 57. He allowed 56 hits and held opponents to a .205 batting average, which ranked ninth in the American League among relief pitchers (minimum 65 games).
After the All-Star break, Lyon was one of the top relievers in the American League, posing a 1.77 ERA with a 1.74 batting average against. His ERA in the second half of the season ranked second in the AL.
"This is a big deal for me and my career, and I'm very excited to have an opportunity to be a free agent this offseason," Lyon said. "Weighing it back and forth and going over the situations I had and the commitment Houston was making to me, it made sense. I've always enjoyed coming here and playing on the road."
The signing of Lyon and the trade for Lindstrom came on the heels of the Astros losing closer Jose Valverde and reliever LaTroy Hawkins in a span of a few hours. Valverde declined arbitration late Monday, which opened the door for the Astros to have significant payroll flexibility.
Houston was unable to re-sign Hawkins, but Wade and his staff recovered and did it cheaply. Instead of having to pay Valverde about $10 million in arbitration and Hawkins around $4 million, Lindstrom and Lyon will make between $6 and $7 million next year. And that flexibility enabled the Astros to sign third baseman Pedro Feliz and leave them with what Wade calls "pocket change."
"In a short period of time, we were more than satisfactorily able to fill a very significant need on our club and two very significant roles," Wade said. "It also allowed us to move forward and have the flexibility to improve the offense with the signing of Pedro Feliz and allows us frankly to have some more flexibility to do some more things before the beginning of the season."
Lyon, who has a sister that lives in suburban Houston, pitched for Arizona from 2005-08 and posted a 2.68 ERA in a career-high 73 games in '07. He pitched five times in the playoffs that season and didn't allow an earned run in six innings of work.
He saved 28 games for Arizona in 2008 after Valverde was traded to the Astros, and he signed with the Tigers for one year and set up games for Fernando Rodney in '09. He was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 14th round in 1999 and has pitched for four teams in eight years: Toronto (2001-02), Boston ('03), Arizona and Detroit.
But now, he's ready to put down some roots in Houston.
"I felt it was a great opportunity for the city and to get a multiyear deal and have an opportunity in Houston, I'm excited to get going," he said.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.