Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco ejected after foreign-substance check vs. A’s, could face 10-game suspension

MLB

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Houston Astros right-hander Ronel Blanco, who threw the season’s only no-hitter in April against the Toronto Blue Jays, was ejected from Tuesday’s win against the Oakland Athletics (HOU 2, OAK 1) after umpires conferred and examined his glove prior to the start of the fourth inning. 

Blanco, 30, entered Tuesday in possession of a 2.23 ERA (171 ERA+) and a 2.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first seven starts this season. He’d thrown three scoreless frames on Tuesday, surrendering four hits and a walk while striking out four of the 14 batters he had faced. On the whole, Blanco has been a revelation for an Astros club that, earlier this spring, was without an entire rotation’s worth of veteran starting pitchers.

Manager Joe Espada told reporters (including Chandler Rome of The Athletic) after the game that he saw sweat mixed with rosin in Blanco’s glove. Pitchers are not allowed to apply rosin on their non-pitching hands, however, which may have triggered the ejection.

Presuming umpires ejected Blanco on the grounds that they believed he was using a grip-enhancing substance, then he would be suspended for 10 games under the policy enacted during June 2021. Umpires are supposed to conduct regular glove and uniform checks throughout the game to ensure that pitchers are not using banned substances.

The league reportedly urged umpires to be more attentive with their checks back in spring 2023.

In the past, several other notable pitchers have been ejected and suspended under MLB’s grip-enhancing substance policy. Among those: Texas Rangers ace Max Scherzer, Pittsburgh Pirates minor-league right-hander Domingo Germán, and San Diego Padres closer Robert Suárez. In all, six big-league pitchers have been punished for violating the policy.

Even with Tuesday’s win, the Astros have a 17-25 record on the season, making them among the most disappointing teams in the majors.

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