KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- 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 appeared in a game for the first time 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 on Friday. He allowed three doubles, one run, one walk and struck out a pair of batters.
"It was good to get back out there," Appel said. "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 excited 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 the 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," Appel said. "That's why they call it 'midseason form.' I hope to be in the best physical shape of my life by the middle of 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 curveballs in the second inning. He said the hitters weren't catching up to his fastball in the first.
"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 offspeed 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."