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'I'm here now': Kaprielian called up by A's

@MartinJGallegos
August 4, 2020

OAKLAND -- When James Kaprielian was selected 16th overall by the Yankees in the 2015 Draft, the expectation was that he’d be fast-tracked to the big leagues. Nothing was easy about the journey, but Kaprielian has finally made it. The A’s promoted Kaprielian, the club’s No. 11 prospect per MLB

OAKLAND -- When James Kaprielian was selected 16th overall by the Yankees in the 2015 Draft, the expectation was that he’d be fast-tracked to the big leagues. Nothing was easy about the journey, but Kaprielian has finally made it.

The A’s promoted Kaprielian, the club’s No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Rangers. The move was made after right-hander Jordan Weems was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right lat strain. Kaprielian is expected to work out of the bullpen in a long-relief role.

One of the key pieces acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal at the 2017 Trade Deadline, it took nearly three years for Kaprielian to appear in a Minor League game for the A’s. He arrived to the club rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 2017 and ‘18 seasons. A strained lat muscle in ‘19 Spring Training kept him out of action for the first two months of the Minor League season.

“This is my path. It’s not the way I drew it up. But I’m here now,” Kaprielian said. “I’m going to do my best to ride this wave and take it all in. I’ve learned from all those trials and I think all these things will benefit me in the long run. I want to stay a big leaguer and help this team win a World Series. I’m here now, and that’s all that matters.”

Once he began to appear in games last May, Kaprielian quickly moved through the A’s farm system. He began the season at Class A Advanced Stockton and finished at Triple-A Las Vegas. In 19 games (16 starts), he struck out 75 batters over 68 innings and posted a 3.18 ERA. The numbers appeared solid, though Kaprielian admitted it was a struggle for him at times to adjust to the routine of pitching on a normal workload for the first time in a couple of years.

Once a hard-throwing right-hander who could pump his fastball into the upper 90s, Kaprielian had to learn to pitch a bit more last season with the fastball sitting around 91-93 mph for most of his outings. While there have been no Minor League games this season, Kaprielian has been participating in simulated games at the A’s alternate training site in San Jose, treating the outings as if they were normal games.

“Even last year was a grind,” Kaprielian said. “When you miss out on the repetition that I was so used to getting on a day-to-day basis of having the ball in my hand and throwing, it’s tough to get it back right away. It took time.

“Last year was a rebuilding year. It was me getting back on my feet and getting back out there. At this point, I feel back to my old self and pretty close to where I want to be.”

The first call after receiving the news of his callup was an easy one. It went to his father, Doug, who coached him throughout his childhood playing career. The two have gone through a lot over the last several years, not just dealing with Kaprielian’s injuries, but also having to deal with the heartbreaking loss of Kaprielian’s mother, Barbara, who passed away in 2014 after a 14-year battle with breast cancer.

“My dad has been through this whole thing with me,” Kaprielian said. “My dad is not a crier or one who shows emotion like that. When I was able to call him and surprise him, it was one of those special moments where I can hear in his voice how excited he was and was proud of me. As a kid, there’s nothing else you want to do than make your dad proud.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin knows the talent brought to the mound by Kaprielian, whose four-pitch mix includes a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. Having witnessed the hard work Kaprielian has put in during rehab in past Spring Trainings, Melvin was satisfied to see the 26-year-old righty get rewarded with a callup.

“He’s really had to power through some injuries,” Melvin said. “When we saw him in Summer Camp, it was the best and most free he’s ever looked throwing. It just looks like he’s finally healthy. I know he’s excited about getting here and we’re excited about having him. He’s a guy we expect big things of down the road.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.