Results tagged ‘ Mark Appel ’

Appel putting it together at Double-A

Astros prospect Mark Appel has seen fellow pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Vince Velasquez and shortstop Carlos Correa – three guys he began the season with in Double-A Corpus Christi – reach the Majors and have an impact on the big league club this year.

Appel, who got off to a slow start for the Hooks while others were being sent straight to Houston, didn’t get discouraged or stop working, and now he’s poised to perhaps join them with the Astros in the near future. Appel, the former No. 1 draft pick, threw a seven-inning complete game Sunday in the latest in a stretch of strong outings.

In his last five starts, Appel (5-1) has allowed seven earned runs, eight walks and struck out 24 in 29 innings, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA. Overall, he’s lowered his ERA to 4.26 from 6.02 following his May 22 start against Midland.

“I think just the circumstance the whole organization is in with a lot of success all the way through, especially at the big league level, shows that the Astros are not scared to bring up their best players,” Appel told “And so, Lance and Vince were pitching great. I’m very close friends with both of them and text them all the time and just so excited to see them do their thing. I want to be alongside with them. I believe I can. I know I will at some point.

“It’s funny. That team was pretty special here in Corpus at the beginning of the season and now three of those guys are having an impact on the big league team, and we would all go out to dinner and talk about what it would be like to all play together in Houston. That dream is becoming a reality pretty quickly. I’m excited to join them whenever that may be, but until then I’m going to keep working hard and having fun and trusting the process.”

The Astros have been trying to get Appel be more aggressive early in counts and get ahead of hitters more and establish his fastball, which he’s been able to do recently.

“I think just everything has kind of been going off my fastball, so getting my fastball right and getting it down in the zone and throwing it early in the count, that really opens up a lot of doors for my off-speed stuff or maybe elevating my fastball by design and so on and so forth,” he said. “Being able to get ahead of hitters, it puts you in a pitcher’s count and also you end up not really walking too many guys.”

Appel also said he’s gained confidence and trusts his stuff more, which he credits to the work he put in with pitching coach Doug Brocail between starts.

Confidence in the work and really trusting, it’s the best thing for me to prepare for each game,” he said.

Appel still believes he can pitch in Houston this year, and whether the Astros would promote him at some point straight from Double-A like they did with McCullers and Velasquez or move him up to Triple-A first remains to be seen. The Astros could be getting veteran Scott Feldman back into the rotation within the next month, so there might not be a spot for Appel just yet, especially if they make a trade to add another arm.

My goal is to get to Houston to help the big league team out, and I have confidence that I can get big league hitters and go deep into games and help the team win,” he said. “Whenever the Astros feel that time is correct, I want to be ready. That’s really the best answer I can give.

“I’m working hard here in Double-A and I’ll continue working hard and having fun and competing all the way up until they decide to send me somewhere else, and then I’ll work hard there. The process stays the same wherever I am. The work I put in stays the same wherever I am. I believe I can really help the team out. That’s really what the goal is for this season and long term.”

Astros cut three from camp

The battle for the fifth spot in the Astros’ starting rotation is a three-man race after right-hander Dan Straily, brought to Houston in a trade with the Cubs in January, was among three players cut from Major League camp on Monday morning.

Straily was optioned to the Minor Leagues, and right-hander Mark Appel and outfielder Andrew Aplin were reassigned, leaving the Astros with 41 players in camp two weeks shy of Opening Day.

Straily, who was competing with Roberto Hernandez, Asher Wojciechowski and Sam Deduno for the fifth spot in the rotation, will begin the season in the rotation at Triple-A Fresno. He appeared in four games this spring, making two starts, and allowed 12 hits, seven runs and five walks in 10 2/3 innings.

“He was behind a couple of other guys,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It’s always tough to send a guy out after he pitched well [Sunday], but we looked at the set of circumstances that would lead to him being that fifth starter, and we really feel like he’s a starter so we want him to go to Triple-A and be prepared.”

Straily, 26, was acquired along with third baseman Luis Valbuena from the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Dexter Fowler in January. He had a subpar year with the A’s and Cubs last year while battling shoulder weakness that changed his arm slot following a bang-up rookie season in which he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts for Oakland in 2013.

“He’s a Major League pitcher, he’s had time in the big leagues, he’s had success in the big leagues and I think he will for us as well,” Luhnow said. “We’re going to need more than five starters this year more than likely and he’s going to be one of the guys we rely on.”

Hernandez, a nine year veteran, is 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four outings (two starts) this year and could have a leg up on the competition considering his experience.

“You look at what’s going on with other clubs around baseball, and there’s a lot of injuries and having extra pitchers that are Major League caliber is something we value,” Luhnow said. “That’s definitely a consideration.”

Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, appeared in three games this spring and gave up five hits and two earned runs in seven innings. He’s likely headed to the rotation at Double-A Corpus Christi, which is where ended last year.

“He’s on a good trajectory right now after a down season last year,” Luhnow said. “He ended the season strong and had a good fall league and a good camp and he’s exactly where we need him to be. He’s one of the top Major League starting prospects in the game, and I expect he’s going to be in Houston and be close to or at the top of our rotation for many years to come.”

Considering Appel appeared in only one game last spring, his experience in big league camp this year was invaluable.

“I’m very blessed to be able to be here,” he said. “It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot about what it takes to be able to get here and stay here, and I’m going to definitely work hard to get back.”

Appel scratched with mild forearm tightness

Astros right-hander and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, originally scheduled to pitch in relief in Monday’s game against the Blue Jays, said he wasn’t concerned after he was scratched because of mild tightness in his right forearm.

“I think people get concerned when they hear that, but for pitchers that’s basically our whole season,” he said. “We always have something nagging us. It would have been my second Spring Training appearance. It’s one of those things where, yes, it is Spring Training and it’s early, and if this were in the beginning of the season, middle of the season, I would have pitched just fine and it would have been nothing to write about, no story, anything like that. Just would have been a regular day at the ballpark.

“That’s really what it is. I’m not worried about anything, not concerned about anything. It is just the trainer’s call on just wanting to take it a little bit easy.”

Appel worked two innings and allowed three hits and one run while striking out two batters Thursday against the Phillies in his first outing of the spring. It was his first game action since last fall, when he pitched wall for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League for Appel.

Last year, Appel missed nearly all of Spring Training after undergoing an appendectomy prior to the start of camp. He’s likely to start this season in Double-A after he finished last season strong there for Corpus Christi.

The No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft, Appel made a combined 19 starts last year between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He began the year at Lancaster, where he struggled, before being sent to Corpus Christi after a stint at extended Spring Training.

Appel throws bullpen at Minute Maid Park

Mark Appel, one of the Astros’ top prospects and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon in front of senior pitcher advisor/special assistant to the general manager Doug Brocail and Astros pitching coach Brent Strom.

The Astros wanted to get Appel in front of Brocail, who served as the interim pitching coach at Double-A Corpus Christi, before the right-hander headed out next week for the instructional league in Florida and ultimately the Arizona Fall League.

“He’s still trying to get cleaned up,” Brocail said. “Personally, I think there’s a lot he needs to do. We’ve talked about it and it’s a matter of trying to clean him up as much as we can until he gets down the instructional league and out of the fall league. I just want to make sure he’s staying on the right path and doing the same things that led him to success at Double-A and he can keep marching up the ladder, versus taking one step back and two steps forward.”

Appel overcame a sluggish start to his first full season in the pro ball this year. He went 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Corpus Christi after beginning the season with a 2-5 record and a 9.74 ERA in 12 games at hitter-friendly Lancaster in Class A.

“We got some really good work done in terms of trying to time some things up,” Strom said. “His fastball was extremely explosive, good changeup. There’s some work that needs to be done on the slider, which we did.

“He’s very open to ideas, so it was an excellent session and there’s definitely thunder coming out of his arm, from what I saw in the bullpen. It was firm, and it was four-seam firm with power. I was very excited for him and he did a good job. I loved what I saw, to be honest with you.”

When asked how close he was in the Majors, Strom said: “I saw some fastballs today that could have played last night.”

Brocail said his theory when he got Appel in July was to prepare him to pitch in the big leagues, which meant cleaning up his rhythm and delivery and helping him hold runners better.

“We got him in a five-man rotation and moved forward and didn’t look back,” he said. “Not taking anything away from the other coaches, I told him, I said, ‘Listen, everything that you think worked, keep it. And everything that didn’t, get rid of it. Erase it completely off the slate.’ And he responded very well. He’s intelligent, he has desire to win. I wish I would have had him longer.”

Appel has tendinitis in his thumb

Mark Appel, the top overall pick by the Astros in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday for Class A Lancaster after developing tendinitis in his right thumb, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Luhnow said Appel had the thumb examined in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was scheduled to resuming throwing again Friday.

“I talked to him this morning and he feels good,” Luhnow said. “He feels like he could throw today, but he’s going to follow the plan, which is one more day off from throwing. He’ll start throwing again tomorrow, and we expect he’ll be ready to make his next start, which is penciled in for June 12.”

Appel returned to the rotation at Lancaster on Saturday after spending a month at extended spring training and gave up 10 runs and 10 hits, including three home runs, in 1 1/3 innings. Luhnow speculated the thumb was a factor.

“If you ask Mark he’s not going to blame anything on the thumb, but certainly it’s something he felt the day after,” he said. “You would have to assume it may have had some impact. I’m not worried about the control. The ball’s were all in the strike zone for the most part. He threw close to 80-percent strikes. But when you talk about command, which is picking a spot in the zone and throwing it there, I think that’s what was probably not ideal for him.

“Anything you have in your hand is going to affect your ability to have command. I’m not concerned medically. I think he’ll be fine, and hopefully he’ll go out there on the 12th and do what we think he’s capable of doing.

Appel’s struggled to adapt to the tandem starter schedule at Lancaster earlier in the season. The Astros began the season using eight starters at each level of the Minor Leagues, though they recently went to a six-man rotation at Triple-A. Under the tandem system, each starter throws every fourth day and is followed in that game by another starter.

In four starts for Lancaster last month, Appel allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 13 innings. He walked four batters and struck out 13. Last year, he went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 starts between short-season Tri-City and Class A Quad Cities.


Fastball command big issue in Appel’s return

The good news for the Astros is right-hander Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, was throwing with good velocity, averaging 95 mph, in his return to the rotation Saturday at Class A Lancaster.

But giving up 10 runs on hit 10 hits, including three homers, in only 1 1/3 innings of work was certainly not what the Astros anticipated seeing from the 22-year-old. Appel walked a batter and struck out two as the JetHawks lost, 16-13, to Rancho Cucamonga.

“Clearly, not the result we wanted in his first outing back, but we’re optimistic that he’s going to put this behind him and go there and execute,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “There’s things he needs to learn from this outing and he will. I get much more concerned when guys have trouble finding the strike zone.

“For him, it’s about getting better command inside the strike zone, getting the ball down and maybe coming in a little bit and doing some of the other things he needs to do to be more effective, especially there in that [hitter-friendly] environment. Things tend to be amplified there. What could be a fly ball in another environment ends up being a home run there.”

Luhnow said Appel’s arm strength was there, so that’s not an issue. Eight of his 10 runs came on three home runs, and all three of those were fastballs up in the zone.

“It’s one of those things that’s unfortunate, but in Lancaster that happens,” Luhnow said. “And I’m not making excuses for him, but it’s an environment where there’s a pretty brisk blowing and you’ve got to learn how to keep the ball down. That was his big challenge last night.

“He did some throw good changeups for strikes and he threw a couple of sliders, but in general it was a matter that he couldn’t get his fastball down.”

In four starts for Lancaster last month, Appel allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 13 innings. He walked four batters and struck out 13. Last year, he went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 starts between short-season Tri-City and Class A Quad Cities.

Astros’ Appel gets in game for first time

With general manager Jeff Luhnow, several members of the front office and a handful of scouts watching from one of the back fields at Osceola County Stadium, Astros right-hander Mark Appel took the mound in a game for the first time Friday in a game this spring.

Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft who was slowed by an appendectomy performed in late January, threw 37 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of work while starting a Minor League game for Class A Lancaster. He allowed three doubles, one run, one walk and struck out a pair of batters.

“It was good to get back out there,” said Appel, who was sent to Minor League camp Thursday. “It’s good to face batters. I think it had been close to seven months since I last got to face a hitter in a game situation [last season at Stanford]. I’m just happy to be back and be healthy after the appendectomy and just ready to get going and ready for the season to start.”

Appel started the game by allowing back-to-back doubles and a walk before settling down to strike out two of the next three batters and escape the inning with only one run allowed. He threw 10 pitches in the second inning, getting a pair of groundouts before leaving the game after allowing a double and reaching his pitch limit.

“First time you step on the mound in a couple of months, I felt like my timing was a little bit off and I felt like I was a little bit anxious, maybe rushing a little bit,” he said. “Just kind of the excitement and the nerves of getting to face hitters, no matter if you’re in Little League or the big leagues, you’re going to get excite to do what you love and you just find joy in it. I enjoyed getting to play today.”

Appel admitted he wasn’t in the same physical condition he was in midseason at Stanford, but he still tried to let it fly as much as he could. His fastball was sitting in low 90s according to one scout’s radar gun.

“That’s what the point of Spring Training is and the point of getting to go out over the season,” he said. “That’s why they call it midseason form. I hope to be in the best physical shape of my life by the middle o the season this year, and I’m doing everything each and every day to get to that point.”

Appel, who will pitch again Wednesday, said he threw more curve balls in the second inning. He said the hitters weren’t catching up to his fastball in the first inning.

“I was expecting it, and I left it up and they hit it well,” Appel said. “Besides that, what I could tell they were waiting fouling it off, so I wanted to try to set them up with the fastball and work on a good strikeout curveball.

“I didn’t quite get there today. I was leaving some of my off-speed pitches up. I threw one or two good ones of each, but for the most part it’s still something I need to work on. I’m never done improving, never done getting better. Overall, I’m pleased with being able to go out and compete. I had fun today.”

Appel ready to get on the mound

Astros right-hander Mark Appel, who’s spent most of the spring recovering from an appendectomy performed in January, is scheduled to appear in a game for the first time this spring. That will happen Friday, likely in a Minor League game and not the Grapefruit League game against the Marlins.

Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, has been taking it slow since undergoing an appendectomy in Houston, just weeks before the start of camp. He said Wednesday he’ll be prepared to throw an inning or two.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s going to be good to actually toe the rubber in a Spring Training game. It’s been a long time coming, so I’m real excited and grateful to have the opportunity to go out and compete with my teammates.”

Appel was never really considered a candidate to make the big league team to start the season, though he’s about as polished as you get considering he spent four years at Stanford. That being said, he would like to break camp with a team – likely Class A Lancaster – instead of having to stay in Kissimmee for extended Spring Training.

“I want to be ready for Opening Day, wherever I go,” he said. “I believe I can be ready physically, and that’s what my goal is. It hasn’t changed since the beginning of Spring Training. Since I had an appendectomy, I made the goal to be ready for the Opening Day of the season.

“That’s what my plan is. If the trainers and other people involved in making that decision say otherwise, there’s not much I can do about it. I’m going to make the most of it one way or another, but I believe I can and will be there for Opening Day, wherever I go.”

Astros pitchers and catchers report to Kissimmee

Astros pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training on Saturday. Here are some notes, as well as some photos:

White progressing steadily

Right-hander Alex White continues to progress steadily from the Tommy John surgery he underwent nearly a year ago. White threw batting practice Friday, tossing 23 pitches, including some changeups to a few hitters.

“We’re coming along pretty good,” he said. “My off-speed stuff is really good, and I’m waiting on the fastball to come along. I think it will come. We’re really just at 10 months right now. A couple of more months we should be there.”

Off-season work beneficial to Castro

Considering he had more time to work out this off-season, All-Star catcher Jason Castro is coming to camp with his surgically repaired right knee feeling stronger than it was even a year ago.

“I put in a lot of work this off-season and I feel like I put myself in a good spot coming back, even better than I was last year,” he said.

That’s a tremendous sign for Castro, who a year ago at this time said his knee was feeling 100 percent.

“I was able to work out for a longer period this off-season than I ever had,” said Castro, who earned a degree from Stanford in the off-season. “I was back in school pretty much right after the season ended, and I was recovering and doing some rehab stuff. I started my off-season.”

Appel recovering from appendectomy

Astros pitcher Mark Appel is still a little sore, but otherwise on the road to recovery after having to undergo an appendectomy Jan. 30 in Houston.

Appel, who lived with his parents in Houston in the off-season, woke up in the middle of the night and thought he had indigestion. The pain lingered, and he soon rustled his father in his sleep to tell him to take him to the hospital.

“Usually if I have food poisoning, I’ll just grab some Tums or something like that,” he said. “I did that after the first time I threw up, and I woke up again maybe an hour later and the same thing and the pain’s worse. I knew something was up, and I just said, ‘Hey dad, I think we need to go to the emergency room to be sure.’ Sure enough, I had appendicitis. It was pretty crazy.”

Wallace focusing on making roster

The fact that Brett Wallace is in camp this year as a non-roster invitee after being designed for assignment last week doesn’t change his mindset: he’s coming to camp to try to win the starting job at first base.

“It’s something I’ve never been through,” he said. “I had some friends and people you play with go through it. It’s definitely a new process but something that, honestly, I can’t control. In the same aspect, I’m coming in camp to win a job. I’m going to keep my head down and keep working and then whatever is happening with all that, I just try to put it to the side and keep preparing.”

Here are some photos:

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Jeff Luhnow, Jesse Crain, Peter Moylan

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Doug Brocail, Peter Moylan

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Josh Zeid throws to C.J. Lo

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Astros have names on the backs of spring jerseys this year

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George Springer tries on his new helmet

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Jason Castro hugs Matt Dominguez as Brett Wallace stands near

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Jason Castro talks to reporters

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Jason Castro finding new storage space

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Jerome Williams does jumping jacks

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Paul Clemens throws to Nick Tropeano

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Jonathan Villar

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Matt Albers and Nick Tropeano

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Jarred Cosart tries on new hat with help from Steve Perry

Appel undergoes appendectomy

Astros pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s First-Year Player Draft, is recovering after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Thursday.

The Astros, in a release, said Appel’s procedure was standard and “with no complications.” He’s expected to report to Spring Training on time for the Feb. 15 date for Astros pitchers and catchers. Recovery time for an appendectomy for baseball players is typically 2-3 weeks.

“Mark will be fine,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready.”

After throwing 106 1/3 innings at Stanford, Appel was held to 10 starts in his professional debut last year. He went 3-1 with a 3.79 ERA between Class A Quad Cities (eight games) and short-season Tri-City (two games), and he should get a full load in his first full season in 2014.

Meanwhile, left-handed pitcher Raul Valdes underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday in Houston. Valdes will also report with pitchers and catchers on Feb. 15 and is expected to have a 4-6 weeks recovery. He was claimed off waivers Oct. 2, 2013.


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