Notes: Phils part with Appel; Sosa solid in CF

March 20th, 2023
Mark Appel works out at Phillies camp on Feb. 17, 2023, in Clearwater, Fla.(AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- ’s Phillies story has come to an end.

The team announced Monday morning that it released the 31-year-old right-hander, who was one of baseball’s best stories last year when he became the oldest first overall Draft pick in baseball history to make his Major League debut -- at 30 years, 349 days old. Appel had an 11.12 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances this spring, allowing 10 hits, seven runs, three home runs and six walks in just 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five.

“He wasn’t going to make this club, and basically we didn’t have a spot in Triple-A for him,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “The timing was right because there’s still 10 days left in Spring Training where he’s got an opportunity to reach out and get a job if he wants it. Being the guy he is and the true professional that he is, we wanted to take care of him as best as we could.”

Appel left the clubhouse Monday before it opened to reporters. But he might have had an inkling that his time with the Phillies was coming to an end. He posted a lengthy thread on Twitter on Saturday that began: “Opening Day is around the corner. Pitchers are almost ready. Position players are locked in. Fans share the optimism a new season brings. But this isn't just another season. This is likely my last.”

The Astros selected Appel with the top pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. He struggled. He battled injuries. Houston traded him to Philadelphia in '15. The Phillies designated him for assignment in '17. He quit baseball in '18. He knew then that he might never return. But a few months later he had surgery on his right shoulder in case he changed his mind.

Appel returned in 2021, but he struggled with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He came back for another year, this time as a reliever. He was 5-0 with a 1.61 ERA in 19 appearances with the IronPigs at the time of his callup. He made his big league debut on June 29, 2022, pitching a scoreless inning against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Appel had a 1.74 ERA in six appearances with the Phillies.

“It’s never been a straight line for me,” Appel said after his debut. “Even in that whole process, I was lost. I felt like there were times when I was hopeless, that this dream would never happen. So yeah, I was choking back tears.”

Sosa ready for CF? 
might be solidifying his chances to be ’s backup in center field. Sosa played center for the second consecutive game on Monday, going 2-for-3 in a 14-6 victory over the Orioles. He is batting .516 (16-for-31) with four homers and a 1.583 OPS this spring.

The Phillies are playing Sosa, who is probably their best defensive infielder, in center because they want a right-handed hitter to back up Marsh. If the Phillies think Sosa can do the job, it might alter their plans for the final two bench jobs. Five players are competing for those two jobs: Jake Cave, Kody Clemens, Dalton Guthrie, Darick Hall and Scott Kingery.

Guthrie and Kingery are the only two that profile as right-handed-hitting center fielders, which could improve the chances of left-handed hitters like Cave and Hall.

“He’s getting better every day,” Thomson said about Sosa. “He’s getting good jumps. … It looks like he’s going to be able to do it. … If we come up against a tough lefty and we want to give [Marsh] a day off, I’d feel confident putting him out there.”

Sosa said he is ready for the opportunity.

“When I compare myself to the beginning of camp, I see progress,” Sosa said through the team’s interpreter.