Joe Espada’s latest comments prove Astros can't take Ronel Blanco out of the rotation

Ronel Blanco's hot start can't be ignored just because it was unexpected.
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros
Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros / Logan Riely/GettyImages

Usually, a team like the Houston Astros has to suffer through some tough times when one of their best players gets hurt. When the start of spring training came and it was revealed that the jewel of the Astros' trade deadline last year, Justin Verlander, wasn't going to be ready for Opening Day, many just assumed that Houston would feel the loss.

Fortunately for the Astros, Ronel Blanco had other plans. After taking the mound for his first start of the 2024 season and promptly throwing a no-hitter, Blanco took the mound over the weekend very likely to not be able to match that. However, after very nearly throwing another no-hitter in his next start, it sure looks like Blanco is more than comfortable in the Astros' rotation.

From the sound of things, Astros manager Joe Espada seems to agree, as he has been effusive with his praise of Blanco's work and thinks he is really establishing himself in the Astros' rotation.

Ronel Blanco has earned his spot in the Astros' rotation

Before Blanco's insane start to the 2024 season, it was largely assumed that his stint in the rotation was not meant to last. It felt as though the Astros had settled on their preferred rotation and were only playing Blanco at all because Verlander wasn't ready. Once Verlander was off the shelf, the general consensus was that Blanco would slide back over to Houston's bullpen.

However, that no longer needs to be an option that must be considered. This is exactly what the Astros hoped would happen at some point this season: a young arm seizing an opportunity and running with it. While Blanco may not have been the arm that many thought would be the one to break out, it would be foolish to not take advantage of this opportunity that has presented itself. If you were to ask Espada today, he would agree in all likelihood, even if the official roster decisions are somewhat above his pay grade.

Assuming a world where the Astros agree that Blanco doesn't need to go anywhere, that probably doesn't bode well for Hunter Brown's long-term prospects in the rotation. Brown has insane stuff and looked great in the first half of 2023. However, he faded badly in the second half and his 2024 season is not off to a great start, as he got beat up in his first outing. Moving Brown to the bullpen where his stuff can play up while keeping the good times rolling with Blanco on the starting staff seems like the obvious move here.

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