OAKLAND — It was his first official Opening Day, and while he wasn’t starting on the mound, it didn’t take away from the fact that he was excited.
“I feel fortunate to be out there,” Oakland A’s pitcher James Kaprielian told The Comeback following the A’s, 2-1, Opening Night win over the Los Angeles Angels.
It was a win that meant something more because of what Kaprielian told some of his teammates heading into the season.
“I checked in on every single one of these guys pretty much all offseason,” Kaprielian said. “I just wanted to shoot a text, and then even when we got to spring training, I sent a text to Paul [Blakburn], I sent a text to Tony [Kemp], Ramón Laureano, and Seth [Brown], and I was like, ‘We’re not doing what we did last year guys.”
The A’s lost 102 games in 2022. It was the second time in Oakland franchise history (1979) that the team lost at least 100 games. It was the result of trading away the superstar names of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea.
It didn’t escape anyone that it was a down year for the A’s.
“But, we want to turn the page — last year is what it was,” Kaprielian said. “We want to learn from it. We want to move forward. I truly believe we do have an immense amount of talent.”
Oakland fans that was awesome tonight! We need that energy all year! Rooted baby
— James Kaprielian (@JamesKaprielian) March 31, 2023
Kaprieilian, who said he will start for the A’s on Monday against the Cleveland Guardians, said he appreciated what general manager David Forst and the rest of the front office did during the offseason. He said the A’s brought in true ballplayers.
The addition of infielders Jace Peterson, Jesús Aguilar and Aledmys Díaz provides veteran status to alleviate the young guys who only benefit from having teammates of such stature. Aguilar’s power hopes to find itself once again after figuring out an adjustment at the plate.
Despite the new faces, the projections for the A’s heading into the 2023 season were unpleasant at best. That didn’t escape Kaprielian.
“We know what everyone’s saying,” he said. “We know what Jeff Passan said about 59 wins. That’s number one right there, so we’re going to see what happens here.”
In Passan’s 2023 season preview article published last month, he wrote for Oakland’s best bet being “under 59.5 wins. The A’s won 60 games last year. They traded their best player, Sean Murphy, over the winter. The AL West is much improved. It all lines up.”
Passan wasn’t alone in the numbers, of course. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections had Oakland winning 64.6 wins. VegasInsider has the A’s projected the same as Passan did with 59.5 wins.
While the A’s have only one game under their belt so far, there was something special in that eighth inning. Before that, Oakland’s starter Kyle Muller said he had the most fun he’s ever had on a baseball field after going five innings, striking out three.
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) March 31, 2023
“I’ve never yelled after the first inning before in baseball, but I was hyped, I was really excited,” Muller said after the game.
The 25-year-old even managed to make Ohtani look mortal.
Muller just made Ohtani look silly pic.twitter.com/FYoaoFtunr
— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken2) March 31, 2023
His mentality after his outing blended in perfectly with what Kaprielian had said.
“Super cool. I mean, it was awesome. That’s what you dream about,” Muller added. “And you get to face the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world back-to-back in the first inning. You can’t write it up any better than that.”
Muller said he would go home and not think about baseball for the rest of the night.