BALTIMORE — All the Yankees can do is wait and hope when it comes to one of their top pitching prospects.
The club put righthander James Kaprielian on the minor league disabled list Thursday morning with right elbow pain, a move that seemingly came out of nowhere.
“We’re concerned,” general manager Brian Cashman said by phone early Thursday afternoon.
Cashman said Kaprielian, who missed the majority of last season with a right flexor strain but who came back to pitch in instructional league and then in the Arizona Fall League, complained of discomfort in the same area two days ago.
The 23-year-old, taken 16th overall in the 2015 draft, will undergo an MRI and a dye contrast MRI.
“We’ll have more when the process is complete,” Cashman said. “He didn’t pitch all of last year ... it’s a concern.”
Cashman said he didn’t have any second thoughts with how the Yankees managed Kaprielian, who was slated to start Friday for High-A Tampa, in the spring.
“We handled him with kid gloves,” Cashman said. “So far we’ve done everything possible ... the rest of it shall wait until all parties [doctors] weigh in.”
Cashman did not give a timetable for when that will be.
Kaprielian was brought along slowly this spring at what Cashman in early March described as “a snail’s pace.” Initially he wasn’t going to appear in any Grapefruit League games and was to be relegated to live batting practice sessions and simulated games, but the Yankees gave him an appearance March 16. Kaprielian, who described himself several times in the spring as a “caged bull” in his want to get on a mound, threw two scoreless innings that afternoon against the Blue Jays, his fastball reaching 96 mph.
“It really looked good,” one National League scout said that day. “Changeup needs work, but his slider, that’s a big-league pitch. The stuff is there. He was as advertised.”
Kaprielian was that when he came out of the gate in April 2016 for High-A Tampa, going 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his first three starts — with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 18 innings. Scouts had his fastball as high as 99 and there was plenty of talk, both from inside the organization and outside it, that Kaprielian very well could make the Bronx by season’s end.
But after his third outing Kaprielian felt something in his elbow and was shut down and did not pitch the rest of the season.
Throughout this spring the pitcher said he was “100 percent” and “ready to go,” and in an interview late last week at the Yankees minor league complex, Kaprielian said he was more than excited to start the games for real, even with those being in Class-A.
“Wherever I am, I need to be able to pitch well, regardless of where,” he said.
Kaprielian said “Yeah, absolutely,” he pictured himself in the big leagues by the end of this season, assuming health.
“I think that’s part of it,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to visualize and see it happen before it actually happens. I’ve been visualizing it since I was a 5-year- old kid, and it’s always been the pinstripes.”
That didn’t mean Kaprielian, who has impressed veteran teammates — CC Sabathia, to name one — with his maturity the last two springs in big-league camp, was getting ahead of himself.
“People are doing a good job of helping me and telling me, ‘You need to be present,’ ” Kaprielian said. “You can’t worry too much about where you’re going or what’s going to happen in the future. Continue to get stronger, continue to just learn every day and be where your feet are.”
For now, they’re in the last place Kaprielian wanted them: back in a doctor’s office.