December 2, 2023

It took nine years, but he did it: Experienced rookie Appel recalled from AAA with nothing but excitement and relief


Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

Closers come at a premium these days. Fortunately for the Phillies, they had a pretty good one 70 miles North of the Bank. Now, he is officially, a Phillie.


“I think getting to even wear the jersey and be in the locker room, it’s a lot of fun for me.” That is what Mark Appel told the media after returning to the game he loves in the spring of 2021.

Mark Appel, a 30-year-old right-hander from Houston, graduated from Stanford University and was selected first overall by his hometown Astros in the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. A few seasons later, he was considered the biggest bust in major league history.

Appel is one of only three first-overall draft picks to not play in a major-league game. Now, all that could change; Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson informed the media that Appel would be recalled from triple-A following Friday night’s loss in San Diego.

Mark Appel has always been a very open person, and he expressed his emotions via Twitter this morning:

Appel struggled in his first few professional seasons with Houston and was traded to Philadelphia as a part of the Ken Giles trade in December of 2015. Two years later, the Phillies designated him for assignment after having a 5.27 ERA in 17 starts. He was outrighted back to triple-A but ultimately stepped away from baseball because of rotator cuff and labrum injuries—Appel was over pitching through the strain, soreness, pressure, and tiredness.

A few months later, he found a spark that was not there before. He had surgery in 2018 and began rehab. That led him to start throwing again, leading people to believe that a comeback could be in the works. He decided to call Ned Rice, the Phillies’ assistant general manager, to inform him that he wanted to make a comeback.

It took convincing, hard work, conditioning, and much more, but three years after stepping away, he came back.

He returned as a starter for the remainder of 2021 and had a 6.06 ERA in 23 games between Reading and Lehigh Valley. After the 2021 season, his first season back in the bigs, he tweeted this:

He transitioned to a reliever in 2022 and quickly became one of the most dominant closers in the International League East.

Today, Appel is still tweeting about all the adversity he has faced during his long but still blossoming career. He was publicly congratulated on his promotion by many active and retired major-league players, including Ross Stripling, David Price, Marcus Stroman, and teammate Bryson Stott.

——————————————————————————————————————–Appel will not fill a major role in the Phillies’ bullpen right away, but he could be a valuable piece to a struggling bullpen if he translates his success from triple-A to the big leagues.

The Phillies have not yet made the roster move official, so it is unclear whether he will be available for tonight’s game in San Diego.

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