Mark Appel on track to make his pro debut in early July

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Mark Appel signed quickly with Houston for nearly $1.5 million less than the recommended slot bonus for the No. 1 overall pick and now the Astros are making plans for his professional debut.

Appel hasn’t done any throwing since being drafted, but Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle reports that he’s set to begin a throwing program after meeting with the Astros’ brass at their spring training complex in Florida.

Next on the agenda will be some simulated game action, followed by joining a rookie-ball team, with Appel’s minor-league debut likely taking place in early July.

Alex Wood to try pitching out of the stretch

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Pedro Moura of The Athletic reports that Dodgers starter Alex Wood plans to pitch out of the stretch throughout the 2018 season. Wood got the idea when he watched Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg pitch against the Dodgers.

Wood, 27, finished last season 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and a 151/38 K/BB ratio in 152 1/3 innings. That’s a mighty fine season, one in which many pitchers would not dare to mess with something that isn’t broken.

Interestingly, Wood indeed has had better results with runners on base — when he would pitch out of the stretch — as opposed to the bases being empty, with a respective OPS allowed of .523 versus .684, respectively. Over his career, he has allowed a .617 OPS with runners on and .706 with the bases empty.

In response to Moura’s tweet about Wood, retired pitchers Dan Haren and Jered Weaver took the opportunity to burn themselves. Haren tweeted, “I pitched a few seasons completely out of the stretch actually, just not by choice.” Weaver responded, “Sometimes I would just step off and throw the ball in the gap myself because I knew the hitter would do it anyways.”