Appel faces first big league hitters in game setting

Appel faces first big league hitters in game setting

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It wasn't quite pitching at Minute Maid Park in the regular season, but No. 1 Draft pick Mark Appel got a chance to perform under the lights and in a big league game for the first time Wednesday night at Osceola County Stadium.

Appel, who was behind schedule all spring after undergoing an appendectomy in late January, threw a scoreless inning in relief in his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game. He allowed one hit and struck out two batters.

"It was fun," Appel said. "You always look forward to that first Major League game whenever you're a kid. Even though it was a Spring Training game, it was still important, in my mind. I tried to prepare for it just like any other game. It was fun to face big league guys."

Appel admitted there were butterflies.

"Absolutely," he said. "You always get a little nerves going, a little bit of anxiety when you step on the mound. I know Spring Training is winding down, but for me, it was my first time out. It was a lot of fun."

Next up for Appel will be an ever bigger start. He's tentatively scheduled to start Sunday's exhibition finale at Minute Maid Park against Veracruz of the Mexican League.

"It'll be great," Appel said "I'm real excited to pitch on Sunday, to pitch at Minute Maid in front of my family and hometown fans. It'll be a lot of fun, just having that opportunity to work on my game and play for the Astros."

Appel grew up in Houston as an Astros fan and pretty much has his entire family living in the area, so he'll have a huge cheering section. After that game, he'll likely head to Lancaster for his first full professional season in Class A ball.

"I'll probably have a decent contingent [at Sunday's game]," Appel said. "All my grandparents, my family, aunts, uncles, cousins -- they all live in Houston. I think most of them will be able to come out and watch, and we'll probably be able to grab some dinner afterward. I'm real excited to be able to pitch in Houston."

As far as reaching Houston, it's unlikely the Astros would add him to the 40-man roster this season. Appel is focused on the now.

"My mentality is to go out and give them a reason to call me up," he said. "That's kind of my mentality. There's so many things out of my control. I don't want it to be given to me because I was a high draft pick. I want to earn everything that I'm given."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.