Ronel Blanco could provide much needed depth to the Astros rotation
The Astros rotation on paper should be a great strength this season. If any team was built to weather the loss of Justin Verlander, it was Houston.
Rather quickly, questions have begun to surface about the depth in Houston's rotation. Lance McCullers Jr. still isn't throwing and no return timeline has been announced. Hunter Brown can't find the strike zone and may be best served coming out of the bullpen for a while. Where might the Astros look for depth in their rotation?
Look no further than Ronel Blanco. His offseason of dominance has carried over into Spring Training. As has been discussed at great length, Blanco set a Dominican Winter League consecutive scoreless innings streak before reporting to Spring Training.
Since coming to Spring Training, Blanco has continued to shove. Dana Brown said he would like to see Blanco stretched out as a starter, and Houston appears to be doing just that.
In today's win over the Cardinals, Blanco threw 2.2 scoreless innings in relief and 47 pitches. He gave up no hits, but did issue two walks, while striking out two. Spring Training stats can be misleading, but it is tough to look at what Blanco has done this Spring and not get excited.
Across four appearances, Blanco has thrown 7.2 innings. He's allowed five hits and only one home run on a solo shot, and the two walks today were the first he has issued. He carries a 0.91 WHIP and a 1.17 ERA.
In year's prior, we've seen Cristian Javier fluctuate between the rotation and the bullpen. With Javier firmly entrenched as a starter, Dusty Baker may be looking for another arm he can deploy in a similar capacity. It's early, but Blanco has shown electrifying stuff that could work in a leverage role or as a length option in spot starts or in case of an emergency if LMJ doesn't make it back or Brown falters.