HOUSTON — Now, if Mark Appel can only live up to commissioner’s Bud Selig high praise.
The big right-hander, the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s draft, signed with the Houston Astros Tuesday and was quickly likened to two of the franchise’s biggest stars, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.
Speaking at a MLB diversity business summit near Minute Maid Park, Selig praised the Astros’ selection of Appel and their 2012 No. 1 pick, shortstop Carlos Correa.
“I look forward to the day when players like Carlos Correa and a hometown pitcher, Mark Appel … will be among those who form a new core as successful as Bagwell and Biggio,” Selig said.
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Appel, a polished and well-spoken Stanford graduate, was left speechless.
“That’s, uh, it’s very nice words that he said,” Appel said, shaking his head. “Just hearing that comparison is pretty special, especially being a hometown Houston guy. Bagwell and Biggio were two of my favorite players.”
Terms were not disclosed but Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said it was “the most significant investment” the Astros have ever made in an amateur player.
The 21-year-old Appel was 10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 earned-run average this season.
Appel grew up in West Houston before moving to California at age 12. The Astros had a chance to draft him last year but instead went with the 17-year-old Correa from Puerto Rico. Pittsburgh drafted Appel at No. 8, but he turned down a $3.8 million offer and returned to Stanford for his senior season.
Appel said when he rejected the Pirates, he wasn’t thinking about potentially being drafted by Houston this season. When it happened, he could barely believe how well everything worked out.
“Growing up in Houston I came to games at the Astrodome and at Minute Maid,” he said. “That was the dream. It was every kid’s dream to play for your home team, and now it’s a reality. It’s still surreal. I don’t think it’s sunk in.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Appel will be a welcome addition to the hard-luck Astros with his mid-90s (mph) fastball and nasty slider.
Ramirez quits Rhinos
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Slugger Manny Ramirez, 41, is leaving the Taiwan Rhinos because he misses his family in New York, the team said. In 49 games, he hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBI.
The Rhinos said they tried to keep the 12-time All-Star in Taiwan, including raising his monthly pay from $25,000 to almost $60,000 for the March-to-November season.
He played 19 big-league seasons and was MVP of the 2004 World Series for the Boston Red Sox.
• Gonzaga LHP Marco Gonzales, the 19th overall pick in the draft, agreed to undisclosed terms with St. Louis. The West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year was 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA in his junior season, and also led Gonzaga with a .311 batting average.
• High-school RHP Kohl Stewart of Houston, the fourth overall pick in the draft, agreed to terms with the Twins. The Phillies signed the No. 16 pick, Lakewood (Calif.) High School SS J.P. Crawford.
• Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera had two hits against Baltimore to become the first player with at least 100 hits and 71 runs batted in through his team’s first 70 games since Boston’s Ted Williams in 1948, according to STATS.
• Colorado traded OF Eric Young Jr. (.242, eight stolen bases) to the Mets.
• Cleveland closer Chris Perez’s court appearance on drug charges was pushed back to July 9. He’s on the disabled list but won’t return Friday, as the team originally hoped.
• Toronto reliever Brett Cecil set a club record by retiring his 38th consecutive batter. David Cone retired 36 without giving up a hit in 1995.