Appel excited ahead of first Grapefruit League start

Astros prospect has been out since March 5 due to forearm strain

Appel excited ahead of first Grapefruit League start

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Mark Appel, the top pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, will make his first start in Grapefruit League action on Monday when he gets the ball for the Astros' split-squad team that will travel to Viera, Fla., to face the Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT (watch the game on MLB.TV).

Appel hasn't pitched since he threw two innings on March 5 against the Phillies after coming down with a strained right forearm a few days later. The condition isn't considered serious, and Appel has thrown a couple of times in the bullpen since with no issues.

"I'm really excited," said Appel, the Astros' No. 2 prospect. "It's a blessing, for sure, to be able to get the ball to start the game. Obviously, my goal long term is to be a Major League starter, and so this will just be working towards that goal. I'm just really excited for it."

Appel, 23, missed nearly all of Spring Training last year after undergoing an appendectomy prior to camp, so this will be his first Grapefruit League start. Manager A.J. Hinch plans to travel to Space Coast Stadium to watch Appel, who will be followed by reliever Luke Gregerson and rotation candidate Samuel Deduno.

"I've been working here in the spring on throwing fastballs inside and just consistency with all of my pitches, really nothing too specific," he said. "But just go out there and compete, and however many innings I get, just go until the ball is taken out of my hands and give it all on every pitch."

The Astros' other split-squad team will be playing the Braves in Kissimmee.

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.