TAMPA -- Right-hander James Kaprielian says that he's been "hearing rumors" ... rumors about where the Yankees will assign him for the start of the 2017 season.
He's hearing that he'll be right where he is this spring ... right where he was for all last season, before and after he suffered a mid-April flexor tendon strain in his pitching elbow:
Tampa.Yankees' James Kaprielian throws BP
There's a lot to love about living in Tampa ... unless you're Kaprielian, who might have double-jumped to Triple-A or perhaps even all the way to the big leagues last season had his arm issue not materialized.
But because it did and because the Yankees believe that their 2014 No. 1 draft pick can develop into something special, they're going to baby him a little longer. The organization plans to play it extra safe this season even though Kaprielian has been healthy since last fall and ended 2016 by pitching pain-free innings both in the Florida Instructional League and Arizona Fall League.
The Yankees' unannounced probable plan -- the rumor Kaprielian has heard -- is that he'll remain in Tampa until the weather in the Northeast warms up, then he'll get a long-awaited promotion to double-A Trenton.
"I understand," Kaprielian told NJ Advance Media on Friday after he threw 20 pitches of batting practice at the Yankees' minor-league complex. "I know the goal is to have a successful long-term career."
The Yankees have hopes that Kaprielian, who was drafted 16th overall in 2015 out of UCLA, will develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter, and if the organization allowed it, the 6-foot-4 Californian would love to be part of the mix this spring for the two current openings in the big-league rotation.
"If managing my innings is something we're going to do, we're going do it," Kaprielian said. "There hasn't been any distinction on what the number is. And I don't know if they're planning on starting me off with lighter innings. A lot of that stuff's not my decision.
"The Yankees are my employer and I'm an employee, so my job is to worry about what I can worry about ... go out there and compete when I get the opportunity."
Kaprielian can't wait to pitch in Trenton because he's heard the Eastern League's Thunder draw well.
"That would be fun," he said. "I haven't pitched in front of a lot of fans in awhile. The Fall League ... not too many fans. Florida State League ... not too many crowds. UCLA ... small crowds."
Eventually, Kaprielian will be on the mound in front of massive crowds ... 40,000 to 50,000 at Yankee Stadium. That probably won't happen until 2018 or 2019, but after missing most of last season, he's happy to be healthy and finding it easier to patiently climb his way up the organizational ladder.
His goal this spring is to get into a few Grapefruit League games before being re-assigned to the minor-league camp, which seems doable. After that? Keep pitching, keep developing and wait until the Yankees feel he's ready to help them.
"They've got a plan and they're got a purpose, and my job is trust what they're got going on and do what I can to just pitch whenever I get the option," he said.
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