Astros prospect Mark Appel dealing with tendinitis in his thumb

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With this year’s First-Year Player Draft underway, it only makes sense to check in on the progress of last year’s No. 1 pick, Mark Appel.

In case you haven’t noticed, Appel has had a rough go of things this season. The 22-year-old struggled to adapt to the Astros’ piggyback starter system with High-A Lancaster, giving up 10 runs on 17 hits and four walks over 13 innings before being sent to extended spring training. He made his return to Lancaster on Saturday and was rocked for 10 runs on 10 hits (including three home runs) over just 1 1/3 innings. It appears that we have an explanation for at least part of the struggles.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that Appel was scratched from his start with Lancaster today due to tendinitis in his right thumb. The good news is that it’s not a major concern. He’s expected to resume throwing tomorrow and make his next start one week from today.

When the Astros drafted Appel No. 1 overall last June, many said that he could make his major league debut by the end of 2014. That looks doubtful right now, though it’s obviously way too soon to write him off for the long term. If anything, it functions as a reminder that nobody is a sure thing.

53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro homers in independent league ball

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It was announced earlier this month that 53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro signed a contract with the Cleburne Railroaders of the independent American Association, joining his son, former minor leaguer Patrick Palmeiro. The four-time All-Star went 0-for-8 to begin his stint with the club before launching a solo homer in the fifth inning last night. Check it out below.

If we’re being technical here, that was his first home run since July 30, 2005. He hit the homer off 28-year-old Trey McNutt, former prospect with the Cubs and Padres. Palmeiro made his major league debut in 1986, three years before McNutt was born.

Palmeiro told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic last December that he was thinking about a comeback, but he understandably didn’t garner any serious consideration from MLB teams. This comeback attempt might not lead anywhere, but hey, he gets to show that he can still mash while hitting in the same lineup with his son. Palmeiro did that once before with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2015, though it was just a one-game thing. As for the Railroaders, the national media attention can only help them.

Palmeiro is one of just six players in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, but he’s been a disgraced figure in the game since a failed drug test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2005. He dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014.