MLB news: Astros demote Appel, Ventura dominates, Griffin headed for Tommy John?

Greg Fiume

The Astros are demoting top pick Mark Appel, Yordano Ventura added to his growing legend on Friday, and A.J. Griffin might or might not be headed for Tommy John surgery. Also, Dee Gordon is really, really fast.

"It's a little unsettling but the results aren't what he's capable of at this point."- Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow on Mark Appel

The Astros have sent the top overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mark Appel, down to extended spring training after the right-hander struggled to begin the season at High-A Lancaster, per the Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz. Appel has a 6.23 ERA through four starts and couldn't escape the third inning of his outing on Wednesday.

The club doesn't believe Appel has any injury problems, but are concerned that the 22-year-old is having trouble adjusting to the four-man rotation with tandem starters that the Astros employ in the minor leagues. Appel's struggles are especially surprising since he was a four-year standout at Stanford who is expected to move relatively quickly through the minor leagues after signing a $6.35 million bonus out of the draft.

After an emergency appendectomy stalled his preparation this spring, though, Appel simply isn't ready for a pro workload, according to Luhnow. It's a strange situation, but it doesn't make sense for Houston to force the issue with their prized prospect either.

Appel clearly has the pedigree to succeed in the low minors, and the Astros should give the right-hander the time he needs to get up to speed.

Ventura dominates Orioles

Hyped Royals rookie Yordano Ventura has been every bit as advertised this April, and his success to begin his major league career continued against the Orioles Friday night.

Ventura twirled eight shutout innings versus Baltimore, allowing seven hits and two walks, while striking out eight to pick up his second major league win. He threw a fastball that averaged 97.7 mph, according to Brooks Baseball, and also mixed in an effective changeup and curveball.

On the season, Ventura has compiled a 1.80 ERA, a 2.61 FIP and struck out three times as many batters as he's walked in 25 innings. It's safe to say the 22-year-old has impressed during his first few cracks at big league lineups.

Harper drives in four, leaves game early with injury

It's been a slow start to the season for Bryce Harper, though the 21-year-old had four RBI against the Padres on Friday before leaving the game with a wrist injury, according to the Washington Post's James Wagner.

Harper hit a bases-clearing triple in the third inning against the Padres, but appeared to jam his wrist when he dove headfirst into third base. Despite grimacing in pain, the left-handed slugger stayed in the game for another inning before being removed in the fifth.

Harper went 2-for-2 with the triple and four RBI and is batting .289/.352/.422 with one home run this season.

Dee Gordon is fast

Dee Gordon has his weaknesses as a baseball player, but there is no denying how fast the Dodgers' second baseman is.

On Friday against the Rockies, Gordon used his legs to turn a seemingly harmless ground ball that never escaped the infield into a double.

Deedouble

Gordon is off to a strong start for the Dodgers, hitting .361/.397/.486 with 12 stolen bases and just a single caught stealing.

Griffin to have Tommy John

Athletics starter A.J. Griffin will undergo Tommy John surgery next week, according to Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com.

Stiglich's report does refute the update that A's assistant GM David Forst gave to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, with Forst stating no such decision will be made until next Tuesday.

Griffin hasn't pitched this season for the A's after being shut down during spring training and would become the second Oakland starter to have Tommy John surgery following Jarrod Parker in March. The right-handed Griffin has been a steady performer since debuting in 2012, posting a career 3.60 ERA with 235 strikeouts in 282 innings for the A's.

Despite all the injuries to their rotation, Oakland has hardly missed a beat this April; the club's rotation owns the third-lowest ERA in baseball at 2.61.

Pagan injured, but still starts for Giants

Angel Pagan has a slight tear in the patella tendon in his right knee but will play through the injury, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle's Steve Kroner.

Pagan played on Friday night despite the issue, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a stolen base. For now at least, Pagan looks unaffected by the knee issue.

The 32-year-old missed 91 games for the Giants last season with a left hamstring injury, and the team went 37-54 without him. Pagan is batting .329/.375/.427 with a home run and three stolen bases for San Francisco in 2014 and will continue to play through the injury for now.

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