Top prospect Mark Appel returned to game action Monday for the Astros, just one week after being scratched from what would have been his second appearance of the spring. Appel got off to a rough beginning in his first actual start. His first pitch was in the dirt. His second was laced for a triple by Nationals rookie Michael Taylor who scored on a sac fly from the following batter. That would be the only run he would surrender in his brief outing, but control seemed to plague him all day. His final line read 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks.
After dealing the Astros a bit of a scare with a sore forearm on March 9th, Appel reported no problems during or after his work on Monday. It appears that the soreness was very minor and the team was just taking every precaution with their young star prospect.
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Appel will certainly be sent to the minors soon, as the consensus is that he needs just a little more seasoning before being big league ready. Still, it was important to get him a start with the big league club to build on his confidence and experience. His excitement for yesterday’s start may have been the reason for his control problems, as he told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. ” I think I was excited to go out there and pitch. I think I was a little sporadic there in the first inning. The command wasn’t right where I wanted it to be.”
Houston will be pleased with the fact that the young right-hander got some work in without any recurring soreness and that his velocity was consistently in the mid-90’s. While the Astros do have an open competition for their 5th spot in the rotation, Appel was never seriously considered to be a part of that contest. Even if the Astros thought he was ready for big league action, there is no need to rush Appel’s service time. I would look for the heralded young prospect after the all-star break if he continues to stay healthy and there is a need in the Astros rotation.