Mark Appel AP

Astros prospect right-hander Mark Appel set to be promoted to Double-A

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Astros prospect right-hander Mark Appel had his best start of the season on Thursday and now Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that he’s set to be promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi.

When the Astros chose Appel first overall in last June’s First-Year Player Draft, many believed that he was on the fast track to the major leagues. Of course, it hasn’t worked out that way. After a solid showing in his pro debut last season, the 23-year-old has struggled to the tune of a 9.74 ERA over 12 starts this season with High-A Lancaster. He got a late start this spring following an appendectomy in late January, but the Astros sent him to a full-season affiliate anyway and he had some trouble adjusting to the organization’s piggyback pitching rotation. He has also missed some time with right wrist and thumb issues.

It’s been a rough ride, but Thursday’s start provided reason for optimism, as Appel allowed two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out seven batters. He’s hoping to look back on his struggles as a learning experience.

“It’s been the worst experience of my life,” Appel said. “I would say I’ll look back at my time in Lancaster this whole season… whenever it ends, whether I end up going to Corpus at some point this year or the season ends, I’ll look back at the summer and say ‘Wow, I really learned a lot.’”

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.