Multiple sources are reporting that the Astros have sent top-prospect Mark Appel to extended spring training in Kissimmee, Florida. Though four starts with high-A Lancaster JetHawks, Appel posted a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings of work - 17 H, 9 ER, 4 BB, 13 SO. He gave up three earned runs on six hits over 2.1 innings in his most recent against Inland Empire Wednesday.
Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz spoke Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow about the situation -
"We thought he could catch up by going to Lancaster and jumping right into the rotation there. The feeling was after I spoke to him a couple of nights ago and speaking to the pitching coach there, we're going to take half a step back and send him to Florida and have him pitch in some extended (spring training) games and get him more used to the pro routine because he's not really used to it. It's a little unsettling but the results aren't what he's capable of at this point."
Luhnow made it clear that he doesn't believe that Appel has any kind of arm problem. The move is being made to help him adjust to a five day pitching schedule. He has pitched every seventh day at Stanford and low-A Quad Cities for the most part last year. Appel pitched an average 115 innings his last three seasons at Stanford, and pitched 33 innings at low-A Quad Cities in 2013.
Appel missed much of spring training with a appendectomy, making one back-field start before the Astros returned to Houston. In Houston, Appel made his first start at Minute Maid Park in a exhibition game against Rojos del Águila de Veracruz. He controlled the game for three innings, holding Veracruz scoreless on two hits and three strikeouts.
It's been a bumpy ride with Appel so far. Is the sky falling? Is there nothing to worry about, or would Jeff Luhnow even tell the public if there was a problem? Will Appel hangout with Jesse Crain? There are already too many questions surrounding Mark Appel's young career.