Three of the four arms in the race for the fifth spot in Joe Girardi’s rotation have left the gate. However, the one with the most upside hasn’t moved out of the barn.

Say hello to Michael Pineda, who hasn’t faced big league hitters in two years thanks to shoulder surgery and has watched David Phelps and Adam Warren start games this spring for the Yankees while he toils in bullpens, throws batting practice and will work a simulated game Sunday.

Asked if he was going slower with Pineda than the others, Girardi said, “Yeah, just to make sure.” Then he backtracked.

“I mean, not really,’’ Girardi said. “It’s CC [Sabathia’s] first outing [Saturday] so [a simulated game] is like [Pineda’s] first outing.’’

Girardi indicated the 25-year-old Pineda’s second outing would be in a real game and could be Friday against the Tigers at home.

When camp opened, Phelps was the betting choice to fall in behind Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova in the rotation. Warren was the place pick and Pineda, if his shoulder held up, was the show choice.

Three games into the exhibition season, Phelps and Warren have worked two innings apiece and done nothing to hurt their chances. Warren, with help from his fielders, threw two scoreless frames in a 7-4 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday.

Yet, it wouldn’t be prudent to count Pineda out only because at this point he is still building arm strength. Whether he ever gets back to the mid-90s fastball he had in the first half of 2011 with Seattle isn’t known.

“He is better than when we saw him a couple of years ago, that’s for sure,’’ Girardi said of Pineda, who was then a sore-armed pitcher who was out of shape from the first day he reported to camp and had tricky early-season shoulder surgery. “We have been encouraged and curious to see how it translates into a game.’’

The Yankees manager mentioned being pleased with Pineda’s mechanics and location, but warned the final days of February aren’t the ideal time to focus on speed guns.

“I think it’s too early to tell,’’ Girardi said. “He is a power guy, so you have to give him a little time to build up.’’

Fortunately for Pineda, Girardi hasn’t started the serious evaluations yet.

“You are always evaluating, but it’s not fair to do a big evaluation,’’ Girardi said. “It will be clearer what they do at the end of camp than at the beginning.’’

Warren and Phelps are good friends and if they don’t land in the rotation, there is likely a spot in the bullpen for the right-handers from the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame, respectively.