White Sox

Cubs lineup -- Tuesday

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Cubs lineup -- Tuesday

Today's Cubs lineup against San Diego lefty Eric Stults:

David DeJesus RF
Starlin Castro SS
Joe Mather 3B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Jeff Baker 1B
Reed Johnson CF
Darwin Barney 2B
Koyie Hill C
Jeff Samardzija SP

White Sox taking their time figuring out what Michael Kopech's 2020 will look like

White Sox taking their time figuring out what Michael Kopech's 2020 will look like

Michael Kopech is not likely to make 30-plus starts in 2020.

Still one of the highest ranked pitching prospects in the game, Kopech is slated to return from his Tommy John recovery when spring training rolls around in February. He’ll be without restriction when the White Sox report to Camelback Ranch.

But his 2020 season will not be a full one, per say, as the White Sox will be cautious with a guy they expect to be a key part of their rotation for a long time.

Speaking during the GM meetings last week in Arizona, general manager Rick Hahn said Kopech will be on an innings limit of some kind during the 2020 season. Though he was hesitant to put a specific number on that limit.

“I don't think there's going to be a magical number,” he said. “And it's been our experience that when you set the specific number, it in some ways boxes you in a little bit.”

Whether the White Sox know how many innings they want Kopech to pitch and are just refusing to make that knowledge public, or they’re truly waiting to see how Kopech fares in the spring before settling on a number, there are multiple elements going into that decision.

First is the injury, with Kopech not pitching in a game outside of instructional league since Sept. 5, 2018. Kopech’s spent the last year-plus working his way back, and by the time Opening Day 2020 rolls around, it will be almost 19 months since that last major league appearance. The White Sox don’t want to let the flame-throwing Kopech let it all loose and run out of gas because his body isn’t back to the regular pitching routine.

The other is the experience. Kopech has thrown 14.1 innings of big league ball. That’s it. The 146.1 innings he threw between the majors and Triple-A in 2018 are the most he’s thrown in a single season in his pro career, throwing 134.1 innings the year prior at Double-A and Triple-A.

“We'll react to being fully cognizant of the fact that he's coming off of a career high, previously, of about 140-ish or so innings,” Hahn said. “And obviously coming off the surgery now, we have to be cognizant of the fact that this isn't a guy that's going to be out there, necessarily, for seven months taking the ball every fifth day, and we'll have to plan for that accordingly.”

The reason all this is important is because the White Sox might be in a position to compete for a playoff spot in 2020, depending on how the offseason goes, and that could mean wanting to deploy a talented pitcher like Kopech in meaningful games down the stretch and perhaps even in October, should that opportunity arise.

So you might not see Kopech as part of the Opening Day rotation and just piling up the necessary innings before getting shut down for the year. The White Sox might get a little more creative.

“That's what's going to be the trick, whether that's skipping him from time to time or managing his work load early in the season,” Hahn said. “All those things are possibilities, it's just going to be a matter of — let's first get to spring training, let's see him throwing the ball healthy again without restriction, feeling good about where he's at, and we'll come up with a plan.”

Now the idea that Kopech might not be a part of the White Sox starting rotation right away might come as a head-scratcher to some. Hahn has been hinting at that possibility for a while now, dating back to the middle of the summer. Kopech was given a spot in the rotation when he made his big league debut at the end of the 2018 season, but apparently it’s yet to be finalized that he would automatically return to that spot upon his return from injury.

Hahn has laid out that Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease will be part of the White Sox rotation next season and confirmed last week that the team is looking to add a pair of starting pitchers this winter. That makes five, and that might make it easy for the team to start slowly with Kopech, be that in the minor leagues or in the bullpen or wherever.

Don’t get too nervous, as Kopech still figures to do plenty of big league work in 2020. But it sounds like the final decision on everything involving Kopech will have to wait until he gets going in spring training.

“It's too early to say that (he’ll be part of the Opening Day rotation in 2020),” Hahn said. “Let's see what other possible additions we make, and let's see exactly how he is come spring training.

“You've got to keep in mind, this kid, come late February, the first time he'll face big league hitters, that'll be the first time he's done it in 18, 19, 20 months. So let's just see where he's at.

“Our view of him for the long term is that he's going to be an important part of a very good rotation. How quickly he gets there, we're going to take our time getting there.”

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Headstrong: Receiving mental health 'is not a luxury, it is a necessity'

Headstrong: Receiving mental health 'is not a luxury, it is a necessity'

Mental health has long had a stigma, but with further awareness of the importance of maintaining positive mental health, that is changing.

“Going to therapy is not a luxury, it is a necessity,” licensed clinical social worker Dr. Gail Grabczynski said. “Just as you go and get evaluated for physical ailments, you should and get evaluated for mental health ailments.”

Grabczynski was the Bears lead mental health clinician from 2005-2016. She also worked closely with former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Marshall was able to not only get his life in order, but also speak freely about his mental health. He refused to do his sessions in an office and instead did them where everyone could see him. He was trying to end the stigma of mental health and athletes by showing everyone that he was not afraid to talk about it in a public setting.

“We need to continue to move this forward,” Grabczynski said. “Not only do we see it here domestically. We see it internationally that there is a push and a movement forward regarding mental health and the need for people to understand the importance of it.”

See more from Grabczynski in the interview above.

This is all part of a larger message and project from the NBC Sports Regional Networks. Religion of Sports — the media company founded by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Gotham Chopra — has partnered with NBC Sports regional networks for a new one-hour documentary addressing the issue of mental health in sports. “HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports” is executive produced by six-time NFL Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront of our national conversation,” Ted Griggs, president, Group Leader and Strategic Production & Programming, NBC Sports Regional Networks, added. “Thanks to athletes like Brandon Marshall, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, and executives such as NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we know that our sports heroes face mental health challenges, just like so many others. We hope this project will advance that conversation and show people that resources and assistance are available to everyone.”