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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Mark Appel, the first player taken in last month’s major league draft, started Friday for Quad Cities against the TinCaps at Parkview Field. He gave up two home runs but did not get a decision. He struck out four and walked no one.

No. 1 overall pick sharp against ’Caps

– A Stanford degree, a $6.35 million signing bonus and a quick rise through the minor league ranks.

Life’s been good to Mark Appel the past few months.

The 2013 Major League Baseball draft’s No. 1 overall pick started for Quad Cities in a 6-3 win over Fort Wayne on Friday at Parkview Field.

Appel made his pro debut July 5 with Tri-City, the Houston Astros’ short-season Class A team in the New York-Penn League.

After two starts there, he bounced to the River Bandits, where he has started two games.

“Wherever they want to send me and whenever they want me to have the ball, I’ll be ready,” Appel said. “It’s been pretty crazy, just a lot of travel, you know? A lot of short nights of sleep. But it’s been fun. I’ve loved every part of it.”

The 6-foot-5 righty could have been in this position a year earlier.

Pittsburgh selected Appel with the No. 8 pick in 2012. He declined the Pirates’ offer and decided to return to Stanford as a senior – a decision that got him a degree and a couple extra million dollars.

“I have a Stanford degree in my back pocket,” he said with a laugh. “You can rest easy.”

He hasn’t gone many innings because the Astros don’t want to overexert his arm. Appel is coming off a 10-4 season with the Cardinal, averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

But Appel showed off an 89 mph slider with a big-time hook to it Friday, as well as a 95 mph fastball and an 85 mph changeup.

“Today was the best I’ve felt, as far as like my arm and my body,” said Appel, who went four innings and gave up three earned runs against the TinCaps. “My fastball was really good when it was down, and I think I made two or three mistake pitches. Two of them got hit out of the park. That’s just baseball.”

Appel faced 16 batters and threw 48 pitches. He had just one three-ball count and struck out four.

His three earned runs came on just two pitches – a changeup pulled out of the park by TinCaps right fielder Corey Adamson and a high fastball rocked by Gabriel Quintana.

“Good hitters, they’re going to make you pay when you make a mistake,” Appel said. “That’s probably the biggest thing for me today. I made a few mistakes.”