Mark Appel has pitched in three different locales since signing with the Astros as this year's No. 1 overall Draft pick. Still learning the routines of pro ball, he pitched like he was right at home on Sunday.
"It's not the easiest thing, but the coaches have been awesome and my teammates have been great. They've all helped me get settled in here in Davenport," Appel said.
The Stanford product allowed two hits and struck out three over four scoreless innings in his Midwest League debut, helping Class A Quad Cities cruise to a 9-2 victory over Dayton at Modern Woodmen Park.
Appel didn't notice much of a difference moving up to a full-season league.
"I think it's pretty similar in regards to talent," he said. "In short-season, most are college guys who signed this year, compared to younger guys here in [Class A]. But they're very talented. In regards to differences, it's still baseball. You still have to throw strikes -- that's my focus."
In that regard, Appel wasn't successful early on Sunday. Dragons leadfoff man Beau Amaral beat out a grounder to shortstop for an infield hit and Sammy Diaz walked.
"In the first inning, I had a little bit of adrenaline, or more excitement than adrenaline. I was rushing my delivery, just getting on the mound too quickly, so I was missing my fastball location," Appel explained. "I made a quick adjustment after the walk and focused on keeping the ball down."
He struck out the next hitter, Reds No. 10 prospect Jesse Winkler.
"Knowing that I was able to locate off-speed pitches and my fastball and bearing down helped," Appel said. "First and second with nobody out isn't a situation anybody wants to be in, so that punchout right there was a big out. It helped me settle in and feel a little more confident."
Appel allowed another single in the third, then retired five in a row to complete his outing. He appreciated that both hits against him came on grounders.
"Whether the ball goes through the infield or not, that's the result I want," the California native said. "My goal is ground balls, and both hits were ground balls. If they were line drives, that's not what I was trying to accomplish and I'd have to make an adjustment for next time.
"I'm OK with the ground-ball hits. If guys were on second and third, I might not have been, but in that situation, I'm fine with it."
Still shaking off some rust, Appel walked a batter for the first time in three Minor League starts.
"I left some of my off-speed stuff up more than I wanted to and I missed with some pitches I usually like to see strikeouts on," he said. "But considering it was my third start in about seven weeks, I'm not overly concerned about anything."
Appel, who turns 22 on Monday, made two starts for short-season Tri-City after working out at the Astros' complex in Kissimmee, Fla. His promotion to Quad Cities earlier this week made him teammates with 2012 No. 1 overall pick and Astros No. 2 prospect Carlos Correa. It's the first time consecutive No. 1 picks have been on the same Minor League roster and only the fifth time two No. 1 picks have been on the same team in the Minors.
"I think it's cool," Appel said. "Hopefully, it's something for the fans to get excited about. Houston fans can be excited about the future of the Astros. There's talent at the big league level and there's a lot of guys coming up in the next couple years.
"I've gotten to know Carlos a little bit. He was at the Futures Game today, but I've talked with him. He's a great kid and obviously he has a lot of talent."