Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco ejected after foreign-substance check vs. A’s, could

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Houston Astros right-hander Ronel Blanco, who threw the season’s only no-hitter in April against the Toronto Blue Jays, was ejected from Tuesday’s contest against the Oakland Athletics (GameTracker) after umpires conferred and examined his glove prior to the start of the fourth inning. The Astros summoned reliever Tayler Scott to take Blanco’s place.

Blanco, 30, entered Tuesday in possession of a 2.23 ERA (171 ERA+) and a 2.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his first seven starts this season. He’d thrown three scoreless frames on Tuesday, surrendering four hits and a walk while striking out four of the 14 batters he had faced. On the whole, Blanco has been a revelation for an Astros club that, earlier this spring, was without an entire rotation’s worth of veteran starting pitchers.

If umpires ejected Blanco on the grounds that they believed he was using a grip-enhancing substance, then he would be suspended for 10 games under the policy enacted during June 2021. Umpires are supposed to conduct regular glove and uniform checks throughout the game to ensure that pitchers are not using banned substances.

The league reportedly urged umpires to be more attentive with their checks back in spring 2023.

In the past, several other notable pitchers have been ejected and suspended under MLB’s grip-enhancing substance policy. Among those: Texas Rangers ace Max Scherzer, Pittsburgh Pirates minor-league right-hander Domingo Germán, and San Diego Padres closer Robert Suárez. In all, six big-league pitchers have been punished for violating the policy.

The Astros came into play on Tuesday with a 16-25 record on the season, making them the most disappointing team in the majors. They were stationed in fourth place in the American League West, some 6.5 games back of the first-place Seattle Mariners.

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