Ronel Blanco suspension, explained: Why Astros starter was banned 10 games after sticky substance ejection

Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco is in the midst of an eventful year. But the right-hander’s breakthrough season is now on pause.

MLB suspended Blanco for 10 games Wednesday after he was ejected following a foreign substance check during Houston’s win Tuesday over the Athletics.

Blanco entered 2024 with just seven career starts under his belt, but he announced his presence by throwing a no-hitter in his first start of the season. After making Houston’s Opening Day roster because of Justin Verlander’s injury, Blanco has proved pivotal for an injury-riddled Astros rotation. 

The 30-year-old has a 2.09 ERA through eight starts, with 45 strikeouts and a 1.06 WHIP.

Here are the details behind Blanco’s suspension and what it means for the Astros.

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Why was Ronel Blanco suspended 10 games?

Blanco accepted a 10-game suspension Wednesday from MLB, opting against an appeal. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

Blanco was ejected Tuesday after first base umpire Eric Bacchus found what he later told reporters was “the stickiest stuff [he’s] ever felt on a glove since we’ve been doing this for a few years now.” 

The right-hander denied using any banned substance, instead attributing the stickiness to a mixture of rosin and sweat.

“Maybe because of the sweat it got into the glove and that’s maybe what they found,” Blanco told reporters through an interpreter after the Astros’ 2-1 win.

Rosin is the only substance MLB pitchers are allowed to use on the mound. The powder, which comes from tree sap, is intended to help pitchers deal with sweat, but it can’t be applied to the glove or glove hand. Blanco said he wasn’t aware of that restriction.

Foreign substance ejections prompt an automatic 10-game suspension for pitchers, though a pitcher can try to get the punishment altered or overturned through the appeals process. 

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In essence, Blanco has to miss just one start. He pitched Tuesday and can pitch as soon as the 10 games are up, so the Astros — with the benefit of an off day toward the end of the ban to get their starters some extra rest — effectively just have to fill Blanco’s shoes once.

Blanco would have been in line to start Monday against the Angels. The Astros don’t have an off day before then, so they will have to find another arm to take Blanco’s place.

One missed start doesn’t seem like much, and it isn’t. But the Astros could be spending much of the season battling back from an ugly first few weeks, and Blanco has been the most consistent piece of their rotation. Every game matters for Houston, which sits 17-25 through 42 games.

MLB began cracking down on the use of foreign substances in 2021, mandating umpire checks throughout the game. Then-Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago was the first player ejected under the new policy, but ejections have been few and far between since then.


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