Who is Ronel Blanco, newest member of no-hit club?

April 2nd, 2024

If you’d never heard the name before Monday night, you likely have now. The Astros right-hander became the latest pitcher to throw a no-hitter, tossing the 17th no-no in Houston’s rich pitching history against the Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park.

Just who is Blanco, who managed one of baseball’s most memorable feats in just his eighth career start? Here’s more on the newest member of MLB’s no-hit club.

• Blanco is a 30-year-old righty from Santiago, Dominican Republic. The 6-foot-tall, 180-pounder made his Major League debut for the Astros in 2022.

• Blanco wouldn’t have been in the Astros’ rotation to begin the year had it not been for injuries to Justin Verlander and José Urquidy. He was told last week by manager Joe Espada that he had won the final spot in the rotation -- on the same day he and his wife welcomed their second child.

• Until recently, Blanco has never served as a full-time starter. Across his Minor League career, he started just 34 of the 202 games in which he appeared. Blanco made seven relief appearances in 2022 with the Astros, but he didn’t make his first big league start until June 1, 2023.

• Credit Astros general manager Dana Brown, hired in January 2023, for turning Blanco into a starter. Brown tabbed Blanco as a potential starter after watching the right-hander pitch in 2023 Spring Training, and after being optioned to the Minors in May 2023, Blanco stretched out as a starter. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and earned a win over the Angels in his first outing. In his second, he limited the Blue Jays -- yes, the same team he later no-hit -- to just three hits and two runs over six innings.

• Blanco wasn’t always a pitcher. During his amateur baseball days, he was a corner infielder and outfielder with a rocket arm. But Blanco’s light bat wasn’t good enough to earn him consideration from scouts, so at age 18, he switched to pitching. Apparently, it was the right path.

• After his transition to pitching, Blanco kept an unusual schedule as he worked to gain recognition. He practiced on the mound in the morning, but in the afternoon, he worked at a car wash in order to support himself and his mother, Maria.

• Blanco kept at his craft, pitching in showcases and in tryouts across the Dominican Republic. Astros scout Francis Mojica eventually noticed Blanco -- but he wasn’t looking for him. Mojica was there to scout a highly touted outfielder named Julio Rodríguez, who had the same trainer as Blanco. Rodríguez eventually signed with the Mariners and won the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

• Impressed by Blanco, Mojica extended an invitation to the Astros academy and eventually signed him on April 27, 2016. International prospects can sign with MLB clubs when they turn 16, but Blanco was 22 when he inked his first big league contract. The Astros signed him for $5,000.

• Blanco isn’t the first pitcher signed by the Astros at a relatively older age. Dominican pitchers Framber Valdez (21) and Cristian Javier (18) were well past their 16th birthdays when they signed with Houston, as was Luis Garcia (20).

• Blanco has been flat-out dominant in the Dominican Winter League. In his career with the Estrellas Orientales, he owns a 0.98 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 55 innings.

• Other natives of Santiago, D.R., include Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Gómez, Joaquin Benoit, Willy Adames and Christopher Morel.