CLEARWATER, Fla. — James Kaprielian will pitch in an exhibition game after all.
The plan for the righthander, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, had been to limit him to simulated games and bring him along at a “snail’s pace,” general manager Brian Cashman said, because of the right flexor strain that cost him most of 2016. But after the 23-year-old’s second simulated game, a three-inning outing Friday morning, Joe Girardi said plans have changed. “I think his next appearance is going to be in a game [in five or six days],” Girardi said.
Kaprielian, taken 16th overall in the 2015 draft by the Yankees, was 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his first three starts with high Class A Tampa last season — with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings — before being sidelined. Before that, the Yankees felt he might progress fast enough through the system to reach the major leagues by September.
Assuming good health for Kaprielian — who again said he is “100 percent” — Girardi said he wouldn’t rule out such advancement this season. “He’s another kid who we think can move pretty quickly,” he said. “If he stays healthy and pitches, there’s definitely a chance, I think.”
Judging the competition
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said throughout the offseason that he wanted Aaron Judge to be the Opening Day starter in rightfield. The 24-year-old has responded with a solid performance. He went 1-for-3 Friday in the Yankees’ 5-0 victory over the Phillies, including his second homer, a solo shot off lefty Adam Morgan on a 1-and-2 fastball away. Judge, who struck out in 42 of his 84 at-bats last season, is 9-for-26 with six strikeouts.
“It’s going well,” Judge said. “The biggest thing for me I’m trying to do is be consistent. Consistently swing at the right pitches. Get on base, make contact. So far I feel I’ve been doing that.”
Aaron Hicks, also competing for the job, is 6-for-23.
Chase Headley hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Clay Buchholz.
Luis Cessa, among the five pitchers competing for the fourth and fifth starter jobs, was scratched from Friday’s start because of a fever. Cessa, who was in the clubhouse Friday morning, will throw a simulated game Saturday. Chad Green, also in the competition, started and allowed no runs, two hits and three walks in two innings.
“Fastball command needs to get better the next three weeks,” said Green, who threw 43 pitches, 21 for strikes.