'What a day for Blanco': Welcomes child, K's 10, makes rotation

March 27th, 2024

HOUSTON -- had quite a day on Tuesday.

He spent the first half of the day at the hospital, where he and his wife welcomed their second child, a baby girl, and finished it by earning a rotation spot.

Blanco struck out 10 over 4 1/3 innings in Houston's 7-3 win over the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, their Triple-A affiliate.

"What a day for Blanco," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "That was one gutsy performance. He's been in the hospital all morning, and then he comes here and competed for a spot, which he won. He's going to be in our rotation to start the season. I'm proud of his performance, and he had one heck of a spring."

Espada said Blanco arrived at the stadium around 5 p.m.

"He wanted to still pitch because he's competing for a spot," Espada said. "His family is here. His mom is here, so his wife has someone with her. He still wanted to come and do his work. That's one heck of a day. Ronel Blanco, I tip my hat to him."

The right-hander allowed one run -- a leadoff home run to Quincy Hamilton in the first -- on two hits and walked two.

"I felt very good," Blanco said through an interpreter. "I felt very good with all my pitches. I was super comfortable with all of them. Obviously, some of them a little bit higher than others. I was able to make the adjustment and get through it."

Blanco had thrown 15 2/3 scoreless innings in the spring entering Tuesday.

Espada told Blanco he made the rotation in the dugout after he exited.

"Once he came out, I thought that was a good moment for me to tell him after his day and how hard he's worked, and how far he's come, let him know he'll be on our team and he'll start the season in the rotation," Espada said.

When Blanco will start is to be determined.

"I still don't know what game yet," Blanco said. "It will be the fourth or fifth game. I got to be ready for either."

This will be the third straight season Blanco has made the Opening Day roster. Last season, he went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 17 appearances, starting seven games.

"I see this as an opportunity," Blanco said. "Just being able to show what I can do as a reliever and a starter, I think something like that will give me more opportunities."

started opposite Blanco for Sugar Land and allowed four runs -- three earned -- on five hits in four innings.

"The first time through the lineup, I thought he threw the ball really well," Espada said. "Then, he kind of fell behind hitters. His cutter wasn't as effective as it's been the last few starts, but he still pounded the zone and mixed all his pitches well. Just wasn't able to put guys away."

The right-hander struck out one and walked one. He gave up a home run to Alex Bregman in the second.

"Everything felt super sharp," France said. "Walks were down. I think I had one walk today, which is huge going into the season. I mean overall I had one hard-hit ball and that was Bregman. Everything else was that weak contact I was looking for.

"Facing these guys, it's a tough lineup," he said. "To get that weak contact and have that one walk was a really good step in the right direction. All my pitches were working really well today."

France said he would have liked to have gone a little longer, but his arm felt good. Last season, he went 11-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 24 outings, including one relief appearance.

He said he was still waiting to learn his role this season.

"They kind of have stuff in the works, but nothing is set in stone," France said. "I'm waiting until it's official."