Mar 5, 5:58 PM EST

Lee pitches 2 easy innings in Phillies' 6-3 loss to Astros


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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Cliff Lee faced major league hitters for the first time since July 31, when his season ended with an elbow injury.

Mark Appel, the first pick in the 2013 draft, faced big league batters for the first time ever.

They both met expectations Thursday in the Houston Astros' 6-3 exhibition victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I definitely do not want to go out the way things happened last year, said the 36-year-old Lee, who started only 13 games for the Phillies in 2014. "I want to go out there and have fun and feel good, and make it a positive thing instead of a battle physically. It's my job to come into camp every day and give myself the best chance to pitch successfully."

The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, pitching in the final year of his contract, gave up two hits in two innings.

"I got through it with two zeroes," Lee said. "I'm just trying to make sure (the elbow) is strong so if something is going to happen, it's not because it's weak."

Luis Valbuena connected for Houston, and Robbie Grossman and Marwin Gonzalez led off the Astros fifth with back-to-back homers off Phillippe Aumont.

Cody Asche drove in two runs for the Phillies, one of them on a double off Appel.

The 23-year-old right-hander gave up three hits while striking out two in two innings. It was the first taste of spring action for Appel, who is coming off an injury-riddled minor league season which drew derisive comments from Astros major leaguers.

"The thing that was difficult for me last year was that I was hurt and I couldn't do anything, and so everyone's talking, and players want to see me play. That was frustrating," Appel said. "Now I'm healthy, but I don't want anybody to look at me any differently just because of my draft status."

New Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Appel, who has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, will be stretched out as a starter this spring.

"It was nice to see him pitch in a little bit of adversity, to see him get some things to work on and keep developing," Hinch said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: Cole Hamels will get his first spring start, against the Yankees and Bryan Mitchell in Clearwater.

Astros: Brett Oberholtzer, Samuel Deduno and Alex White are scheduled to pitch two inning each against the Cardinals at Jupiter.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: Second baseman Chase Utley does not expect to play until next week because of a minor ankle injury he sustained in January.

Astros: Catcher Hank Conger will miss a couple of games with a sore left wrist, but will probably play this weekend.

STARTING TIME

Phillies: Lee said he threw all fastballs except for one curve and two cutters.

Astros: Collin McHugh struck out three in two hitless innings in what he said was his first spring start. (Actually he started a game for the New York Mets in 2013.

HERNANDEZ ARRIVES

Roberto Hernandez, a candidate for the Astros' starting rotation, threw 30 pitches in his first session since arriving from the Dominican Republic after a visa holdup. "I'm not going to try to do too much, but I'm ready," said Hernandez, who appeared to be overweight. The Astros hope to get the 34-year-old right-hander into a game early next week.

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