Kaprielian gives Yanks a preview with 2 hitless frames

Top-rated pitching prospect likely starting season at Tampa

Kaprielian gives Yanks a preview with 2 hitless frames

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- James Kaprielian's first appearance of the spring is also expected to be his last, though for the Yankees, it served as a tantalizing preview of what the right-hander might show in the big leagues very soon.

The Yanks' top-rated pitching prospect, Kaprielian fired two scoreless, hitless innings in New York's 11-5 Grapefruit League victory over Toronto on Thursday, striking out three with a walk. Following the outing, Kaprielian was reassigned to Minor League camp.

"It was fun," Kaprielian said. "I've got to do a better job of attacking the zone a little bit, keep commanding that fastball and just keep finding things to improve on, but overall I think it was fun to be in a competitive atmosphere again and look behind me and see the Yankees behind me. It was a good day."

Ranked as the No. 58 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, the 23-year-old Kaprielian was clocked as high as 96 mph by the outfield radar gun at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. He also showcased a sharp slider, needing just 26 pitches to record six outs.

"I didn't think he overthrew. I thought he stayed within himself," Yanks manager Joe Girardi said. "You're always concerned in that first outing, and he's been champing at the bit. I'm happy for him."

Entering for the seventh inning, Kaprielian struck out Anthony Alford swinging on three pitches, issued a five-pitch walk to Richard Urena and then induced Steve Pearce to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.

Kaprielian returned for the eighth, freezing Russell Martin and Rowdy Tellez looking at fastballs for called third strikes before getting Jon Berti to line out to right field. Kaprielian said that he got a small thrill out of facing batters with legitimate big league resumes.

"Obviously, a guy like Russell Martin has a pretty strong career so far," Kaprielian said. "He's a Gold Glover behind the dish, and he can definitely hit the snot out of the ball. It's fun being able to size yourself up a little bit against guys like that."

Kaprielian and outfielder Mason Williams will now report to the Minor League complex, with Girardi delivering that news following Thursday's game. Kaprielian is expected to open the year with Class A Advanced Tampa, and he was not surprised by the demotion, coming off a season in which a strained right flexor tendon limited him to just three April starts.

"We talked earlier in the spring. There was a statement that I wasn't going to make the team out of camp," Kaprielian said. "But you know, me being the person that I am, I'm going to compete like I'm trying like I'm trying to become an ace."

The Yankees aren't ruling out the possibility that Kaprielian could follow a path similar to the one Luis Severino forged in 2015, when he opened the season at Double-A Trenton and was in the Majors by early August. Kaprielian believes that is a realistic goal.

"I think I can help this team," Kaprielian said. "Obviously, I need to stay healthy. At the end of the day, regardless of where I am, I need to be able to pitch and throw strikes and give my team an opportunity to win and try to get the guys around me better. If it ends up being in the Bronx, it's going to be a fun time, and I hope I can help those guys win."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.