KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A January appendectomy brought Mark Appel more than pain. It brought him perspective.
"I don't want to say an appendectomy is a good thing, but it really gave me time to just think about the things I need to accomplish at Spring Training," Appel said. "Laying down in bed for a couple of days just really helped me prepare myself mentally for what to expect and just the stuff that I need to do."
On Thursday, Appel went through his first bullpen session this season. He fired 22 pitches from a mix of the wind-up and the stretch on the mound.
"I was going to end on the 21st one, but it wasn't a good pitch," Appel joked. "So I threw one more."
Appel felt good following the exercise. He said the soreness he felt was nothing more than the standard that comes with bullpen sessions.
"It felt great," Appel said. "I love getting to pitch, and I love getting to go out there and compete. I know I wasn't competing against a hitter today, but I was just competing against myself."
Before his bullpen session on Thursday morning, Appel said he was feeling "80-85 percent" recovered from his appendectomy. Following the conclusion of the day's workouts, Appel is not sure when he will throw again.
"I think I'll feel good," Appel said of possibly pitching another bullpen session on Friday. "We have one of the best training staffs in the country, so I'm sure that they'll get me ready and I'll put in the work to be ready for [Friday] and see what the day has in store for me."
Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's MLB First-Year Player Draft, has a large legacy to live up to in Houston. Luckily, two of the men who cast that long shadow -- Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt -- were in Kissimmee on Thursday.
Clemens has proven especially helpful to Appel, advising the 22-year-old to stay focused in the face of distractions both during Spring Training and the regular season.
"It's amazing having Roger Clemens here at camp, just the amount of knowledge he has about the game," Appel said. " … He's just a passionate guy. He loves this game. He loves Houston, and he loves the Astros. That's really cool being a part of the Astros.
"He's really rooting for us. He's in our corner. I think it's just so cool that even though he's retired, he's making himself available to whoever wants to talk to him."
In a young 2014 that has already seen Appel rub shoulders with Clemens and undergo an appendectomy, all while owning the status of one of baseball's hottest prospects, the Stanford grad from the state where everything is bigger knows that his path to the big leagues is paved with the small things.
"Months down the road, years down the road, the stuff I do right now in these times that don't seem important is really going to define me," Appel said.
Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less