White Sox

Michael Kopech can still throw 100 post-surgery

Michael Kopech can still throw 100 post-surgery

Michael Kopech’s injury late in the 2018 season was a setback for the White Sox rebuild.

Players make full recoveries from Tommy John surgery all the time now, but there always remains a risk that they don’t. That’s why Kopech’s debut in instructional league ball on Thursday was such a big deal.

According to FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, Kopech still has that upper 90s velocity that was part of his enticing arsenal.


Rusty command isn’t a surprise for someone who hasn’t pitched in over a year. That rustiness may remain for a while, but the fact that Kopech’s elite stuff appears unharmed by the surgery is a good sign.

Here’s some video of Kopech pitching in Arizona, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus’ Steve Givarz.


Givarz reported that Kopech threw nearly 30 pitches and hit 100 multiple times. Kopech said that the surgery was the "best thing to ever happen" to him. Seeing him pitch like this starts to back up that claim.

Kopech was the top pitching prospect in the White Sox system when he made his MLB debut on Aug. 21, 2018. He endured two rain-shortened starts in his first three outings.

Kopech then pitched through the rain in his fourth start, in which he got hammered for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers. His velocity was down and he gave up four home runs. After that fourth start, it was revealed Kopech would need Tommy John surgery.

As the White Sox enter 2020 hoping to look like a contending team for the first time in years, a healthy, fully-operational Kopech would be a huge boost to the team. If Kopech is throwing upper 90s consistently in October, there’s a good chance he could be good to go to break camp with the White Sox on Opening Day.

 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jermaine Dye's slow start yielded to World Series MVP season

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jermaine Dye's slow start yielded to World Series MVP season

Generally, while the temperatures take their time to rise across the American League Central, the pitchers are said to have the advantage.

So perhaps it should be no surprise that at least one hitter on the 2005 White Sox got off to a bit of a slow start before eventually being named the World Series MVP.

Jermaine Dye was one of four new starting position players for the White Sox as they turned the page from 2004 to 2005, but he was no stranger to the AL Central. Though he arrived on the South Side after three and a half seasons with the Oakland Athletics, he spent the four and a half years before that with the Kansas City Royals.

In this lineup, he didn’t need to stand out as one of the most dangerous bats in the league, though by the time the White Sox were hoisting the trophy at the end of October, that’s what he’d become. In 2006, he was even better and finished fifth in the AL MVP vote.

But things didn’t start so hot for Dye. In April, he slashed a nasty .175/.205/.313.

The game against the Detroit Tigers on April 20, our latest edition of #SoxRewind, was an outlier, with Dye besting his RBI total to that point (three) in a single evening. He drove in four runs with a two-run homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth inning.

The 9-1 White Sox romp was perhaps more notable for another sterling performance from Jon Garland, who tossed eight one-run innings. But it had to be a welcome reprieve for Dye, who was still settling into his new digs in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

Things obviously improved dramatically for Dye once the calendar turned to May, and he slashed an eye-popping .292/.355/.548 with 28 home runs in the other five months of the regular season. He hit .311/.415/.444 during the postseason. Come 2006, he slashed .315/.385/.622 with a career-high 44 home runs and 120 RBIs.

It’s safe to say Dye found his footing.

But for White Sox fans getting their first exposure to Dye in the home dugout, as opposed to him suiting up for the division-rival Royals, a big night like the one he had April 20 was more an exception than the rule in that early stage. Even if it was a sign of what was to come.

What else?

— Base-running gaffes hardly matter when your team wins by eight runs, but Dye made a pair of them in this game, twice getting caught in a rundown between first and second. He was picked off of first base to end the third inning. And after singling in a pair of runs in the fifth, he was again trapped between first and second, caught, thankfully for the White Sox, after those two runs had crossed home plate.

— As mentioned, Garland was again fantastic, following up his seven innings of two-run ball against the Seattle Mariners by holding these Tigers to just one run in eight innings. He ended up going at least eight innings seven times in 2005, including a trio of complete-game shutouts. The White Sox won the World Series because of their starting pitching, and nights like this one showed just how dominant it was.

— Joe Crede joined Dye in having a big night, driving in three runs of his own and extending his hit streak to 11 games. Crede homered in the sixth inning, capitalizing when gifted an extra swing by Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen. Guillen tracked a pop up into foul territory but completely whiffed on the attempt. “Make him pay, Joe,” Hawk Harrelson said. That’s exactly what happened. Crede hit the next pitch for a three-run homer.

— Speaking of The Hawkeroo, he took the viewers on an emotional roller-coaster ride in the fifth inning. With one out and Tadahito Iguchi on first base, Paul Konerko drove a ball to deep right field, not far out of the reach of the right fielder. Hawk cheered the thing on the whole time, but his mood changed when the ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. “Get down! Get down! Get down! It will! Dagummit!” Did I mention the White Sox were up three at the time?

— Scott Podsednik, another one of those new position players, kept making his presence felt by making things happen at the top of the order. He scored the game’s first run after stealing third base and coming home on a wild pitch. Sure, he would have scored anyway on Dye’s ensuing home run. But seeing how much difference that elite speed element made on a nightly basis makes you long for more of it in today’s game.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the April 23, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Some phenomenal work by the White Sox bullpen and extra-inning heroics from Aaron Rowand.

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Lucas Giolito: Playing games in empty stadiums 'not the most enjoyable experience'

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USA TODAY

Lucas Giolito: Playing games in empty stadiums 'not the most enjoyable experience'

One of the many possibilities being discussed as baseball tries to figure out what the 2020 season could end up looking like? Playing games without fans present.

Obviously, no one would consider that the ideal scenario. But as uncertainty reigns during the global COVID-19 pandemic, any baseball might be preferable to no baseball at all, and if playing games in empty stadiums makes that a possibility, it’s under consideration as a potential outcome.

Chalk up Lucas Giolito as someone who wouldn’t find that scenario all that appealing. But also count him as someone who’d stomach it if it meant getting back on the field.

"That's definitely not the most enjoyable experience for a player,” Giolito said during a Tuesday conference call. “For me, personally, I really love to feed off the crowd's energy, whether that's at home and everyone's rooting for me or if we're on the road and I want to shut all the other fans up.

“I like that part of the game. I think it's a big part of the game. The more fans that are packed into a stadium, the more exciting a game can be, the more it adds to it.

“But at the same time, we're all used to playing those back-field games, chain link fence league games. We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times.

“If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen.”

Like everything surrounding the game and American life in general, this is hardly a certainty. Baseball is following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, which entail banning gatherings of at least 50 people until mid May. Any major league game, with two 26-man rosters going up against one another, is a gathering of 50 or more people, fans or no fans.

The recent agreement between the league and the union established certain criteria for returning to action, among them that no governmental edicts exist that make it impossible for teams to play at their home stadiums. Though there is a caveat that special arrangements could be made if there’s no better solution. Different local governments across the country could have different restrictions at different times, complicating things as baseball tries to figure out if it’s safe to play.

The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote Tuesday that the season is perhaps likely to start with no fans present as the league and the players aim to play as many games as possible in a short amount of time. But there are obvious reasons why all stakeholders would want that to be a last resort: The more fans in the stands, the more revenue the league can generate. But having any kinds of games to put on TV would provide revenue, as well, even if fans can’t attend.

Throughout his conversation Tuesday, Giolito repeatedly mentioned his realization that baseball needs to take a backseat at the moment. But even baseball fans who share that understanding of the national and global situation are curious about when — and where and how — they will be able to watch their favorite team.

Playing in empty stadiums would be weird for the players and weird for the fans who would be forced to watch on TV. But weird would be better than non-existent.

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