The Astros set their Opening Day roster Thursday, announcing that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Ronel Blanco and designated righty Tyler Ivey for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Houston also placed Lance McCullers Jr. (forearm strain), Jake Meyers (recovering from shoulder surgery) and Taylor Jones (lower back injury) on the 10-day injured list.
Once he appears in a game, Blanco will make his MLB debut at the age of 28. He spent all of last year at Triple-A, punching out 31.7% of hitters while walking 8.9% with a 40.4% groundball rate. According to Chandler Rome of Baseball America, Blanco would have been a “virtual lock” to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, had that event not been canceled. Rome notes that Blanco, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic six years ago for $5,000, surprisingly beat out several pitchers with MLB experience to make the Astros’ opening day bullpen. Houston’s 10-man crew also includes Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek, Hector Neris, Phil Maton, Blake Taylor, Pedro Baez, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu, and Cristian Javier.
Ivey, 26 next month, made his MLB debut with the Astros last May in a spot start against the Rangers. A few weeks afterward, his season ended due to a nerve issue in his elbow. At that time, Ivey admitted in an illuminating story by Rome for the Houston Chronicle that he’d been pitching through pain since 2019, concealing it from the team to maintain his shot at reaching the Majors. The injury turned out to be thoracic outlet syndrome, which the righty dealt with via rehab rather than surgery.
The Astros had optioned Ivey to Triple-A on March 24th. Baseball America assigned Ivey a 50 grade as a prospect, explaining that he’s “a potential middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter candidate if he can stay healthy.” Having ranked as the Astros’ seventh-best prospect, it seems likely Ivey will be claimed off waivers by another organization.