Michael Kopech Returns To Fold
The White Sox bolstered their pitching staff over the winter, acquiring starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Rangers and signing free agent closer Liam Hendriks.
At some this season, they'll likely have another quality arm on the staff.
After missing all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and all of 2020 after opting out of the season, righthander Michael Kopech is back.
Kopech, who turns 25 this season, got back on the mound at spring training in 2020, and his fastball hit 100 mph on six of the 11 pitches he threw during a one-inning Cactus League stint.
Two days later, the coronavirus pandemic halted play, and he decided to sit out when the season resumed in early July.
“There are multiple reasons,” Kopech said. “Covid was one, with having some health issues with my family, but there were a lot of personal reasons as well. I think I've been pretty candid in the past about my mental health being important and prioritizing that so I can be the best version of myself on field.”
Mentally and physically, Kopech is ready to prove he can still be an impact pitcher. After joining Chicago's rotation in August 2018, he allowed only one run over 11 innings in his first three starts.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kopech was shelled in his fourth outing and wound up having elbow surgery.
Getting needed innings is the first order of business before Kopech either moves back to the rotation or pitches out of the bullpen.
“We still view Michael as having the potential to be a premium starter long term," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "We have to be a little bit creative about how we're going to use him in order to get him helping us in Chicago and continuing his development and finishing the year strong.”
No matter the role, Kopech is just happy to be back on the mound.
“Taking that time away from baseball was kind of hard, but I think it was important for me," he said. "Now I'm back and I'm ready to compete."
— Viewed as a starting pitcher with top-end potential ready to start as soon as 2022, lefthander Garrett Crochet is ticketed for full-time bullpen duty with the White Sox this season.
— Righthander Emilio Vargas and second baseman Marco Hernandez, both from the Dominican Republic, were late arriving to training camp due to visa issues.