TAMPA, Fla. -- Who cares that it's Spring Training? Getting the chance to take the ball and face the New York Yankees would be a thrill for any young pitcher, and Astros prospect Mark Appel reveled in that opportunity Saturday at Steinbrenner Field.
Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, not only pitched against the Yankees, but did so very well in his first Grapefruit League outing since Monday. He threw three hitless innings, allowing only one walk while striking out a pair of batters.
"It's a lot of fun being able to pitch against the New York Yankees," Appel said. "As a kid, I never thought I'd be able to say that. It's pretty cool."
The positive results were important for Appel, who's working on being more relaxed on the mound this year. The competitor inside him tends to get him somewhat amped up for his starts, so he wanted to focus on harnessing his energy against the Yankees.
"As far as how my last couple of outings have been, I feel like I get a little overexcited in the first, which is fine," Appel said. "It's Spring Training and sitting in the bullpen for a while, you want to get your juices flowing a little bit. That's kind of where my mindset was. I think I kind of took a deep breath after I got one or two outs in the first and from there I felt pretty comfortable in the second and third inning."
Appel is certainly more comfortable in his surroundings this spring, and he gets more comfortable on the mound with each outing he gets in a big league environment. He was happy with his stuff on Saturday.
"My slider, I was able to throw it for a strike when I needed to and throw it in the dirt," he said. "They took some good approaches, took a few of them that I thought were pretty good pitches. I threw one or two good changeups. I didn't really need to go to it too much, but got one of the strikeouts on a changeup. I got a first-pitch strike for a changeup. I'm doing things I feel like I need to do to keep moving in the right direction."