From the Houston Chronicle’s Jose De Jesus Ortiz.

Only an hour after saying it was too early to change closers, Astros manager Phil Garner removed Brad Lidge from the job and handed it to Dan Wheeler on Monday afternoon before opening a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

As Lidge struggled through spring training, Garner said he wouldn™t be concerned about his closer until he blew about five opportunities in April. But a week after blowing his only save opportunity of the season and one day after giving up five runs (two earned) in two-thirds of an inning, Lidge was taken out of his role.

œObviously they™ve been difficult and disappointing, Lidge said of his struggles since last season. œThey™re not the results that I want. But honestly I feel healthy. I feel good. I need to get some work in.

œI need to get out there and get my stuff back to where everyone has confidence in it. I think if it™s one thing right now that™s lacking, obviously there™s not the same confidence in me that there was. That™s disappointing for me, but I understand that the results aren™t there and that™s why. I want to get people confident in me again.

As Wheeler moves up from setup man, Chad Qualls and Rick White will be his two main setup men. Lidge, who has a 16.30 ERA while giving up six runs (three earned) over 1 2/3 innings this season, likely will work on his command in less stressful situations.

Wheeler earned his first save of the season earlier today, pitching a scoreless 9th inning in the Astros’ 5-3 win over the Cubs. Adam Everett touched up Bobby Howry for a 2-run HR in the 8th inning to break a 3-3 deadlock. “Let’s hope we don’t have any more Opening Day’s this year,” grumbled Sour Lou, who really oughta consider taking off the winter parka once he’s indoors.
In the overall scheme of things, Jason Schmidt homering off Jeff Francis seems far less improbable than the Cards’ Braden Looper having his 2nd quality start in a row. The former Mets closer held the Pirates to a mere two hits and no runs over 7 innings today, in St. Louis’ 3-0 defeat of Pittsburgh.

I don’t wanna claim that yesterday’s PCL duel between Round Rock’s Chad Reinke and Iowa’s Ryan O’Malley (the latter you might recall, outpitched Andy Pettitte at Minute Maid last August) wasn’t on the level. But it was being played and umpired as though the visitors had a flight to catch…in a freezing ballpark that didn’t bother to charge for parking or ask for tickets by the time the nightcap of Sunday’s twinbill began.