The Astros are off to their worst start of the season

The Astros are off to their worst start of the season. They’ve lost all four games, including the opener. The World Series winners from two years ago, the AL West favorites, are not looking like themselves. The pitching staff is to blame. Aces Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidi are out with injuries.

It’s inevitable. Plan B is in play. Last week, the manager (Joe Espada) called up a pitcher. “Hey, Ronel, I need you to pitch Monday’s game (Aug. 2 against the Blue Jays). Can you do it?”

Ronel Blanco, 30, was cast as the fifth starter. He was supposed to start the season in the minors. He doesn’t have much starting experience. He has spent the majority of his 202 career games in the bullpen. His position will change after Dana Brown takes over as GM (January 2023). He”s been labeled a starter and has been getting more innings.

The manager isn’t asking for much.

“I just need him to get through the fifth inning. Is 80 or 90 pitches okay?” The answer, of course, is yes. But she was hiding one thing: She had given birth to her second daughter that day. Maternity leave? I don’t even talk about that. How did I get this opportunity?

Game day arrived. As I warmed up in the bullpen, I could feel it. “It was like the catcher was sitting right in front of me. It’s never been so easy to throw a ball.” Or not. 안전놀이터 The batters are a blur. A single in the first inning is all he gets. No one would reach first base after that.

That’s how the eighth inning ended. He’s up to 91 pitches. I’m already over the limit. I made eye contact with the pitching coach. No words are necessary. He nods. He nods, which means he’s going to fill the rest of the time. The record is in front of him. (Previously, Blanco’s longest inning pitched was six. He did it twice last year)

The score is already 10-0. The team’s first win is assured.

Three outs and it’s over. The last batter, Vladimir Guerrero, hits a ball that rolls toward second base. It’s the 27th out. All 27,275 fans at Minute Maid Park are on their feet. A standing ovation for the first no-hitter of the season (nine innings, 105 pitches, two walks, seven strikeouts).
The Dominican Republic is an important pipeline. It has produced many major league stars, which is why all 30 teams have their eyes on it. If they see a good talent, they grab it. After their 16th birthday, when they can sign an international contract, most prospects are gone.

The opposite logic also applies. If they”re not recognized by then, it means they”re not that good.

This was the case with Ronel Blanco.

One by one, his teammates left for the United States. But no scouts took notice of him. That didn”t change when he turned 17 or 18. Until then, he was usually a corner infielder (first or third base) or an outfielder. He had too much power for his position.

It’s sad to see. Someone slips in a comment. “Your shoulder is fine, but you should try pitching.” I don’t have time to think about it. Let’s change it up and see. I follow my coach to the mound. He can easily hit 90 mph. He’s around 18 years old.

From then on, the way people looked at him changed. Bids come in from here and there. Several clubs with academies in the Dominican Republic offered him auditions. The New York Mets were the first to call. I tried out for a few days, but I didn’t make the cut.

Then the New York Yankees contacted me. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays also gave me a chance. But each time, the same thing happened. “I’m sorry,” or “see you later.” I had to turn away.

That’s how I passed my 22nd birthday.

The Houston Astros have a new director of international scouting. His name was Oz Ocampo (now assistant general manager of the Miami Marlins). He has a unique policy. It’s a low-hanging fruit approach. The strategy is “get them cheap and get them a lot”.

Blanco was offered a contract for a mere $5,000 (about $6.7 million). Something about it caught his eye. He accepted. Framber Valdes and Cristian Javier also joined in this way. They each received a signing bonus of $10,000 (about $13.6 million). They went on to become starting pitchers for the Astros.

When you”re in your late teens, there”s no hope. At least in the Dominican Republic. As we said, it”s scary for a prospect to reach his 16th birthday and get a decent contract with a major league team.

In that sense, Blanco is a special case. He barely found a job at 22. Most people would have given up long ago. But he couldn’t. It’s because of his mother.

His mother, Maria, is a single mom. She raised her three children on her own. She ran a small coffee shop in Santiago. A coffee shop is a good word. It was a shabby place, more like a street stall. She made a living by selling drinks and simple food.

The hours are murderous.

I’d get to work around 4am and open the shop. I’m there until 2:00 p.m., when I’m done with lunch. Then they take a one-hour break. It’s time to prepare for the evening business. Business resumes at 3pm and continues until 11pm. That’s 18 hours a day.

I feel sorry for the mother. The children have to help out, too. Blanco is no different. He spends all morning wrestling a ball in the baseball field. In the afternoon, he works a few odd jobs. The longest job I’ve had is at a car wash. It doesn’t require any physical training. It’s heavy labor that takes an hour or two and you’re covered in sweat.

The scout who watched him remembered. “Horses wash cars. It’s not done by machines like in America. 바카라사이트 It’s all done by hand. It’s a terrible place.” (Interview with Blanco after his record breaking ride. “I have an SUV now, a Toyota 4Runner. On my days off, I clean the car myself,” he laughs).

Life is pretty easy.

I’m sick and tired of baseball. At that point, Blanco says, “I’m tired of being a baseball player, and I’m tired of being a mother.” She’s used to hearing him complain. She grabs her son’s hand and says a warm but firm word. “Para ‘delante,” she says. It’s a Spanish phrase that means, “Don’t stop, keep moving forward.”

It’s shortly after yesterday’s (Feb. 2) standby. As Blanco cheers from the mound, he points to a spot in the stands. It’s where his mother, Maria, is watching.

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