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.