While it may not have been the debut to which Astros fans were looking forward, Mark Appel came away feeling optimistic.
The top overall pick in this year's Draft gave up two runs -- one earned -- on three hits over two innings in his first professional start Friday night as short-season Tri-City walked off with a 5-4, 10-inning win over Lowell.
Appel got off to a rough start, giving up a leadoff triple to Tzu-Wei Lin. After retiring Manuel Margot on an RBI groundout, he yielded back-to-back singles, with an error moving both runners into scoring position.
Carlos Asuaje produced another run with a groundout before Appel made Cleuluis Rondon his first strikeout victim.
"First inning, I left some balls up, but they still had to do a good job of hitting it," the 21-year-old right-hander said. "It's baseball, that stuff happens. I don't think it was anything from a lack of command or anything like that."
Appel bounced back with a 1-2-3 second inning before calling it a night. Despite the results, he was excited just to be on the mound.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "After the college season ended and I signed, I was really excited to get back on the mound and be able to pitch in a live game. It was great, the fans are great. From what I heard, it was a packed house and they were celebrating their Veterans' Night. It was just a great environment."
The Stanford University product struck out one and did not walk a batter. And while he wasn't thrilled with his final line, he was satisfied with the way the evening unfolded.
"Maybe a B-minus or a B," Appel said when asked to grade his performance. "Not my best, not my worst. I know I have a lot to improve on. I think it's a good starting point. That's all I can ask for."
According to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, the plan for the 6-foot-5 hurler is to spend some time with the ValleyCats before making the jump to Class A Quad Cities, with the strong possiblity that Appel could join Double-A Corpus Christi by season's end. For Appel to stick to that plan, all he has to do is stick to his plan.
"Just stay on the course that I'm on right now, do everything I need to do every single day, get my workouts in and my bullpens in and go out there and compete pitch by pitch," he said. "When you do that, no matter what the results are, you can't be upset with yourself. More times than not, you find yourself where you want to be."
Since signing on June 19, Appel spent several days at the Astros' complex in Kissimmee, Fla. While he hasn't gotten much of a taste of Minor League life, there's one aspect in particular he's enjoyed.
"I've enjoyed meeting all the guys in the organization, guys I hope to know for a long time," Appel said. "Getting out there and getting to play baseball. It's a fun sport and we wouldn't be here if we didn't enjoy it."
Thomas Lindauer scored on a passed ball in the 10th to make a winner of 27th-round pick Patrick Christensen (1-0), who retired all five batters he faced.
Fourth-rounder Conrad Gregor went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and fifth-rounder Anthony Kemp reached twice and scored twice for the ValleyCats.