Appel throws in Minute Maid Park bullpen

Appel throws in Minute Maid Park bullpen

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Mark Appel, one of the Astros' top prospects and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, threw in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park on Thursday afternoon in front of Doug Brocail, the senior pitching advisor/special assistant to the general manager, as well as pitching coach Brent Strom.

The Astros wanted to get Appel, 23, in front of Brocail, who served as the interim pitching coach at Double-A Corpus Christi, before he heads out next week for the instructional league in Florida and, ultimately, the Arizona Fall League.

"He's still trying to get cleaned up," Brocail said. "Personally, I think there's a lot he needs to do. We've talked about it, and it's a matter of trying to clean him up as much as we can until he gets down to the instructional league and out of the [AFL]. I just want to make sure he's staying on the right path and doing the same things that led him to success at Double-A and he can keep marching up the ladder, versus taking one step back and two steps forward."

Appel overcame a sluggish start to his first full season in pro ball this year. He went 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in seven games (six starts) at Corpus Christi after beginning the season with a 2-5 record and 9.74 ERA in 12 games playing for hitter-friendly Lancaster in Class A.

"We got some really good work done in terms of trying to time some things up," Strom said. "His fastball was extremely explosive, good changeup. There's some work that needs to be done on the slider, which we did.

"He's very open to ideas, so it was an excellent session, and there's definitely thunder coming out of his arm, from what I saw in the bullpen. It was firm, and it was four-seam firm, with power. I was very excited for him, and he did a good job. I loved what I saw, to be honest with you."

When asked how close Appel is to reaching the Majors, Strom said, "I saw some fastballs today that could have played last night."

Brocail said that his theory, when he got Appel in July, was to prepare him to pitch in the big leagues, which meant cleaning up his rhythm and delivery and helping him hold runners better.

"We got him in a five-man rotation and moved forward and didn't look back," Brocail said. "Not taking anything away from the other coaches, I told him, 'Listen, everything that you think worked, keep it. And everything that didn't, get rid of it. Erase it completely off the slate.' And he responded very well. He's intelligent, he has the desire to win. I wish I would have had him longer."

Appel lives in Houston and was in the stands at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, even appearing on the Kiss Cam. Minor League catcher M.P. Cokinos, a native of Houston, caught Appel on Thursday. Bullpen coach Craig Bjornson was also present.

Brian McTaggart is 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.