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Mark Appel long path to Phillies bullpen

Appel Stanford

In the summer of 2013, Mark Appel graduated from Stanford with an engineering degree, was selected No. 1 overall in the Draft and signed with his hometown Astros.

“It’s been quite the road to get there,” Appel said during his introductory press conference.

And while Appel knew it was the beginning of a new journey, nothing could have prepared him for the road leading to his eventual Major League debut, which is expected to come after he was called up by the Phillies on Saturday.

“I’ve experienced quite a lot in my career, from being a high Draft pick to really struggling to having all the thoughts, all the doubts, physical injuries,” Appel said, reflecting on his nine-plus years since the Draft.

Even before he was drafted, Appel was preparing for the wear and tear of being a professional pitcher. The Pirates selected the Houston native with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 Draft, but Appel opted to return to Stanford. That fall, the right-hander started mentally and physically preparing to pitch in the Minor Leagues after a full college season.

Feeling “very healthy,” Appel turned in a strong debut campaign as he advanced from Class A Short Season Tri-City to Class A Quad Cities. But before he made his first appearance at Spring Training in 2014, MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 overall prospect had to undergo an appendectomy, shortening his runup to the season.

Adjusting to new routines — like piggybacking and pitching every four days — while playing in the hitter-friendly California League “humbled” Appel. A fierce competitor who was a first-round Draft pick in back-to-back years, he was frustrated by his struggles. After posting a 9.74 ERA in 44 1/3 innings for Class A Advanced Lancaster, the Astros’ top pitching prospect finally escaped to the Double-A Texas League. With Corpus Christi, he was able to pitch deeper into games, posting a 3.68 ERA in 39 frames.

In 2015, Appel was finding his rhythm. He’d show flashes of brilliance one start, then not…

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