Photo by Cheryl Pursell

Mark Appel didn't make it out of the first inning against Toledo on Sunday afternoon

After a 3-0 start to the season, right-hander Mark Appel is in a downward spiral that continued Sunday afternoon against Toledo. Appel didn't even make it out of the first inning in his most recent struggle.

Just two batters into the first inning, Mark Appel was already in trouble. A leadoff walk to Anthony Gose was followed by an RBI double from Dixon Machado to put Toledo up 1-0. After getting one out, the trouble began again when Chad Huffman doubled to make it 2-0. There would be two more hits and a walk adding up to four earned runs before Appel would exit with two outs in the first inning of the first game of a double-header against Toledo.

To make matters worse, the IronPigs were forced to go with a bullpen game for the second game of the day, leaving them a little short on pitchers. The good news was a strong performance from Severino Gonzalez, who gave Lehigh Valley four innings of one-run ball in relief.

The biggest concern about Appel was his velocity. He didn't break the 90-mile-per-hour mark with any of the 35 pitches that he threw. Most of the pitches were in the upper-80s throughout his outing.

"When he was first drafted, he was throwing upper-90s," said one scout of Appel following the game. "Everything was hittable today, he was leaving pitches over the plate, no velocity, no movement. You have to wonder if something is wrong physically."

The same scout saw Appel in an earlier start and pulled out his report showing that Appel's velocity was in the low-90s. 

Appel opened the season with four good outings, going 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA and averaged 5 1/2 innings per start. Since then, he's made four starts, going 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA and has averaged just four innings per start. All combined, Appel's ERA stands at 4.46 through eight starts.

There has to be some internal concern over Appel's recent outings, especially after his strong start to the season. In many of his starts, Appel has managed to make it through the order the first time with no trouble, but ran into issues the second time through the order. That routine has led to talk that he may be better suited to pitch in relief than in the starting rotation.

Appel's next start is scheduled for Saturday at home against Louisville.

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