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After Tommy John surgery, Yankees prospect James Kaprielian can only watch

Yankees pitcher James Kaprielian throwing in the bullpen

Yankees pitcher James Kaprielian throwing in the bullpen during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — James Kaprielian was on track to possibly be a part of this, and the righthander thinks about that just about every day.

“Yeah, of course,” he said in the Yankees’ clubhouse before Monday night’s game. “I want to be here with these guys.”

Kaprielian, taken in the first round of the 2015 draft (16th overall) and one of the club’s top pitching prospects, instead is two months removed from Tommy John surgery.

The 23-year-old missed most of the 2016 season with a right flexor strain but entered spring training healthy. Many believed he had a chance to reach the Bronx at some point this season.

He was slated to start the year with high Class A Tampa but, two days before his first scheduled start with the team, Kaprielian experienced pain in the same area of the elbow that caused last year’s problem.

After tests, Yankees doctors recommended surgery, as did Dr. Neil ElAttrache, whom Kaprielian saw for a second opinion. The California native, who grew up about an hour from here, won’t start a throwing program of any kind until the five-month mark at the earliest, with 12 to 18 months the general timetable for returning from Tommy John surgery. That means 2018 is very much in doubt.

“It’s not what I wanted but it’s the card I’ve drawn,” Kaprielian said. “I ultimately do believe at the end of this, this is going to help me down the line. And I think that’s part of it — keeping that positivity and that mindset, knowing things are going to be better on the other end.”

Hicks not going anywhere

Joe Girardi answered the question the same way he has for the better part of a week: When Jacoby Ellsbury returns from his concussion, Aaron Hicks’ playing time isn’t going to decrease all that much.

“I’ve said all along, this kid [Hicks], the way he’s playing and he continues to play, he’s going to play,” Girardi said. “I’m going to find him at-bats.”

Hicks entered Monday with a .317/.429/.584 slash line, 10 homers and 36 RBIs.

New York Sports