HOUSTON (AP) Mark Appel, the top pick in last year’s draft, pitched three scoreless innings in his first spring training start to help the Houston Astros beat Mexican League team Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz 6-1 on Sunday in their exhibition finale.
It was the Minute Maid Park debut for Appel, who lived in Houston until he was 12 and grew up attending Astros games. He had about 20 family and friends at the game.
”It’s a real special feeling and a real honor to be able to come out here and compete,” he said. ”I find joy in being able to play baseball and being able to play for the Astros.”
Appel had been slowed this spring after an appendectomy in January and made his first major league appearance Wednesday against the Mets, picking up the win by striking out two in one shutout inning of relief.
”Appel was outstanding,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. ”It was power fastball, really sharp breaking ball. It was good to get him on the mound at the back end of spring training here. I think we were able to get enough work accomplished where he will be ready to go into his season.”
Appel, who will start at Class-A Lancaster, fanned three with no walks against Veracruz. He threw a perfect first inning before a single to start the second, but got out of the inning with the help of a double play.
The right-hander from Stanford gave up a leadoff double in the third, then retired his next three batters with two strikeouts.
”I think I’m pretty close as far as building my strength back,” Appel said. ”I feel good with where I am right now given the fact that I had an appendectomy two months ago. So I think I’m in a good place right now.”
Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012, had a sacrifice fly for the first run in a five-run seventh that gave Houston a 6-1 lead.
Jose Castillo tripled for Veracruz in the top of that inning and scored on a groundout by Alex Cabrera to tie it at 1.
A sacrifice fly by Adron Chambers gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the third. Three straight walks loaded the bases for the Astros with two outs in the fifth, but Carlos Corporan struck out.
The Astros placed RHP Jesse Crain (biceps surgery), RHP Alex White (elbow surgery) and RHP Asher Wojciechowski (right lat strain) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 21.
Porter gave all his starters the day off and fielded a lineup filled with young players, including Correa and outfielder George Springer. The 19-year-old Correa went 0 for 2 and drove in a run. Springer was 0 for 3 and had a bases-loaded walk a day after going 3 for 3 with a homer against the Texas Rangers.
Springer will start out at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but should make his major league debut this season after hitting 37 homers with 108 RBIs and 45 stolen bases combined in Double-A and Triple-A last year.
UP NEXT: The Astros have a day off Monday before opening the season against the Yankees. CC Sabathia starts for New York against Scott Feldman, who is Houston’s fifth different opening day starter in five seasons. Feldman signed a $30 million, three-year contract this offseason to lead the rotation.
MEXICAN LEAGUE CONNECTIONS: Houston 1B Japhet Amador and left fielder Leo Heras, both in Sunday’s lineup, were acquired from los Diablos Rojos de Mexico of the Mexican League last year. Both players are three-time Mexican League All-Stars. Heras was intentionally walked in the seventh inning and scored on a two-run single by Amador.
The 6-foot-4, 300-plus-pound Amador hit .368 with 36 homers and 121 RBIs in the Mexican League last season before joining Triple-A Oklahoma City. He batted .302 in 10 games for the RedHawks last year. Heras, who had 89 steals in his Mexican League career, had a homer and five RBIs in 10 games for Double-A Corpus Christi last season.