At a quick glance, James Kaprielian appeared locked in.
The Athletics starter was throwing to the New York Yankees on Friday night, the team that selected him in the first round (16th overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Kaprielian eventually was dealt to the A’s as part of the Sonny Gray trade in 2017, but his first outing against his original franchise wasn’t personal, at least toward the Yankees.
“I was excited to be here,” Kaprielian said following the A’s 5-3 win over the Yankees. “For so long I had envisioned myself pitching on that mound and wearing a different uniform, but the fact that I just got to be here at all it’s special. Feels good to come out here and get a win.”
A three-run home run from Tony Kemp in the top of the sixth inning ultimately sealed the deal for the A’s.
"Facing the team that traded me, at the end of the day, it's a business, it is what it is," Kaprielian said. "I understand how this game works and I'm proud to be a part of this A's team.
In 5 2/3 innings, Kaprielian struck out seven, giving up three hits. Two of those hits were home runs from DJ LeMahieu and Rougned Odor.
Kaprielian does however have one objective. To prove the A’s right.
“I’m wearing the green and gold,” Kaprielian said. “These guys have me and I want to represent this organization and my teammates and my coaching staff and the front office as well. It’s not really about who the other team is at this point. It’s what we’re doing in this clubhouse and this dugout.”
Kaprielian’s game plan was to attack early, and that’s what he did. Through the first two innings, he had struck out four.
His pregame routine was something he learned from NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Kaprielian walks out to the warning track early on the field he’s pitching at and embraces the silence. Before the crowd enters and before the soundtrack of the night blares through the speakers.
“If I’m able to find that moment of silence and that quiet moment and that peace, for me, when I’m in those situations where the crowd’s roaring, I try and put myself back in that situation where I’m feeling silence,” Kaprielian said.
It worked. And then some as Kaprielian picked up his fourth win of the season, though his ERA rose to 2.84 on Friday.
The trade back in 2017 didn't pan out well for Gray and the Yankees, and for a time, it didn't appear to be working out well for the A's.
Now though, with Kaprielian's emergence, it would appear the A's won that trade.