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Astros Sign No. 1 Overall Pick

Houston — Mark Appel received high praise from MLB commissioner Bud Selig yesterday when the No. 1 overall pick signed with the Houston Astros.

Speaking at a MLB diversity business summit at a convention near Minute Maid Park, Selig praised Houston’s rebuilding efforts. He then likened Appel, a right-handed pitcher, and Houston’s 2012 No. 1 pick, shortstop Carlos Correa, to two of the franchise’s greatest stars, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

“The Astros are on their way to building the foundation that every club needs for sustained success and I believe this club has the right people in place to execute their very sound plan that is going to bring winning baseball back to the fans of Houston,” Selig said.

Terms were not disclosed but Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said it was “the most significant investment” the Astros have ever made in an amateur player.

The 21-year-old Appel was 10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA this season. He had 130 strikeouts in 1061∕3 innings pitched and allowed opponents a .203 batting average.

Ramirez Quits Taiwanese League

Taipei, Taiwan — Taiwan’s Rhinos said slugger Manny Ramirez is leaving the team after 49 games because he misses his family in New York.

The Rhinos said it tried to keep the 12-time All-Star in Taiwan, including raising his monthly pay to almost $60,000 from $25,000.

Ramirez signed to play the March-to-November season with the Rhinos in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. The team’s website said the 41-year-old will depart Taiwan tomorrow. Ramirez played 19 big-league seasons and was selected MVP of the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox won their first title since 1918.

His last major league appearance was with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Hamilton Dropped
In Angels’ Lineup

Anaheim, Calif. — Slumping Josh Hamilton was dropped to seventh in the Angels lineup by manager Mike Scioscia for last night’s game against Seattle.

The All-Star right fielder and 2010 AL MVP entered the game batting .213 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 69 games, and had struck out 73 times in 268 at-bats while going 7 for 56 with runners in scoring position.

On Tuesday night, Hamilton grounded into double plays his first three times up and struck out twice — Just the second time in 806 major league games that he grounded into more than one double play.

The Halos signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract in December after he left the Rangers for free agency.