The Windup: Ronel Blanco in a sticky situation; Giants, Reds deal with injuries (and a suspension) – The New York Times

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It was a no-no of a different sort for Ronel Blanco, Ken lays out the injury situations in San Francisco and Cincinnati, we take pity on catchers and boy, are the Rangers ever in a funk. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!


You’ll never guess which team may have cheated (again)

The Astros have won five out of their last six games, including a walk-off last night. For the last week, they’ve looked a lot like the Astros of old.

If you’re going to lean into the glory days, might as well do it all the way, right?

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Last night, Ronel Blanco was ejected after three scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s when the umpire crew did a substance check and determined that Blanco was a little too sticky to be out there throwing baseballs.

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To be fair, the ejection was just part one of the process. Blanco’s glove was confiscated and will be examined by Major League Baseball. If they determine that there is a banned substance on the glove, Blanco will be handed a 10-game suspension and the already pitching-thin Astros will not be allowed to replace him on the roster.

Blanco has been one of the big surprise success stories of the 2024 season. He threw a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays in his first start of the year, then held the Texas Rangers hitless for the first 5 2/3 innings of his second start. He’s 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA in eight starts this year.

The Astros, who are 17-25, have leaned heavily on Blanco, with a slew of injuries decimating their pitching staff. Losing him for two turns through the rotation would be a heavy blow.

Kind of related: Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who managed the Astros during the cheating scandal, talks about that and more on The Windup podcast with the Starkville guys.


Ken’s Notebook: Sidelined players hurting Reds, Giants


Jung Hoo Lee is just one of the Giants’ position players who have gone on the IL lately. (Robert Edwards / USA Today)

Only the Dodgers spent more than the Giants in free agency. Only the Cubs spent more than the Reds in the NL Central. But injuries — and in the Reds’ case, the suspension of a top young player for performance-enhancing drugs — are threatening to wreck the seasons for both San Francisco and Cincinnati.

The Giants recently lost seven position players, including both their catchers and entire starting outfield, in a 10-day span.

Their biggest offseason investment, Korean center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, who signed for $113 million plus an $18.825 million posting fee, suffered structural damage to his left shoulder crashing into a wall and is expected to miss significant time.

Blake Snell, Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray are among the Giants pitchers on the injured list, though Snell is expected to rejoin the club after making one final start on his rehabilitation assignment. Yet, even when the Giants were healthier, they were not playing well.

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In the forgiving world of the expanded postseason, hardly any team can be considered buried, not with the season only about one-fourth complete. But questions persist about the Giants’ offense in particular, especially now with younger players such as Luis Matos, Heliot Ramos and Casey Schmitt assuming larger roles. The entire slope for the team is slippery, considering that Snell and Matt Chapman can opt out at the end of the season — or not.

The Reds’ injured list is not as lengthy as the Giants’, but several of the players they lost were essential to their chances of contention.

Second baseman Matt McLain has been out all season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Center fielder TJ Friedl returned from a fractured wrist last week, only to suffer a fractured left thumb five days later. Third baseman Noelvi Marte is out until at least June 26 as he serves an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

McLain, Friedl and Marte are not only three of the Reds’ toughest at-bats, but also three of their best defenders. The Reds started 14-10, but before beating the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, they were in a 3-14 slide. Their 17-24 record was the same as that of the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most disappointing teams in baseball.

Both the Giants and Reds believe they can bank on their starting pitching going forward, the Giants as they get healthier, the Reds if they continue performing at above a league-average level. Maybe that’s a reasonable expectation. Maybe it isn’t. To this point, the season sure has not unfolded the way either team anticipated.


Catching is pain

After Willson Contreras broke his arm last week, Katie Woo wrote a very informative story outlining a problematic and growing trend in baseball: As catchers creep closer to home plate to more convincingly frame balls as strikes, catcher’s interference calls have skyrocketed.

But even without the interference calls, catchers are baseball’s pain magnet. Zack Meisel’s story today features a laundry list of ways in which catchers end up with bumps, bruises and other afflictions on a routine basis.

“You’re in pain, but you never get to shut it off,” (Guardians catcher Austin) Hedges said. “If you can play, you play. There’s no hesitation. You see how people react to getting hit by pitches. It doesn’t feel a whole lot better getting a foul tip off flesh. Then you just have to come back and act like it’s not even a thing.”

A small warning if you’re reading this on your lunch break: The photo of the bruise on the inside of Hedges’ right thigh will do your appetite no favors.

I wouldn’t say that the position of catcher is ever really ignored — their contributions to the team include game-planning, pitch-calling, framing, blocking, base-runner management and a dozen other little things that earn the position the nickname of “field captain.”

But it can be easy to forget just how much abuse their bodies take on a day-to-day basis, most of which falls under the category of “business as usual.” Zack does a great job of telling the story.


Defending World Series champs scuffling

The Texas Rangers are 22-22, which means tonight’s game against the Guardians holds significance beyond snapping a five-game losing streak and avoiding two consecutive sweeps. If Texas loses tonight, it will be the first time they’ve dipped below .500 since Bruce Bochy took over as manager before the 2023 season.

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Like the Giants and Reds, injuries have played a role. They currently have 13 players on the IL, including their starting third baseman (Josh Jung) and designated hitter (Wyatt Langford). And that doesn’t include Evan Carter, who hasn’t played since May 10 as he deals with a back issue.

How about this (six-man!) starting rotation, all on the injured list: Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Nathan Eovaldi, Dane Dunning, Cody Bradford and Tyler Mahle.

But strangely enough, pitching hasn’t been their biggest problem. This month, they’ve averaged five runs a game. Seems fine, right? But 42 of those 70 runs came in three blowout games. In the other 11, they’ve averaged 2.54 runs per game.

Going into last night’s game, seven of the 15 players who have taken at least one plate appearance in May are hitting under .200 for the month, including Adolis García. Carter was hitting .206. Corey Seager, .234.

We’re officially in a funk,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the Rangers were swept in Denver, scoring just six runs over the three games. They’re 0-2 since. The funk abides.


Handshakes and High Fives

MLB has called the Diamond Sports-Comcast dispute “profoundly harmful” in a court filing. Evan Drellich has all the details and the latest in the ugly saga.

Mitch Light has a brilliant story today on Dave Magadan, who hit an absurd .525 — that’s batting average, not OBP — in 1983 for Alabama. (Speaking of college baseball, Keith Law has his first mock draft of the year.)

Jhoan Duran is one of the most dynamic pitchers in the league. Dan Hayes tells us how his new entrance at Target Field now matches his energy (and might be the best intro in the league).

Remember the bizarre Aaron Boone ejection from last month? It happened again, this time with home plate umpire Ben May and the Marlins bench during Ryan Weathers’ gem in Detroit. Are umpires OK?

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Ippei Mizuhara pleaded not guilty in court yesterday. He is still expected to take a plea deal.

Aaron Nola pitched a complete-game shutout yesterday and Philadelphia is the first team to 30 wins.

The Mets are calling up Mark Vientos. Will Sammon tells us why the time is now.

The Rockies — the Rockies — have won six games in a row. Their latest victim: the Padres.

[Sighing deeply, as I motion to the Angels] There was a situation in Anaheim last night.

Look at this catch by Sal Frelick in Milwaukee!

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(Top photo: Erik Williams / USA Today)

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