White Sox

Michael Kopech dodges line drive to the face at White Sox spring training

Michael Kopech dodges line drive to the face at White Sox spring training

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Everything is going according to plan for Michael Kopech.

Except for the part where he almost got drilled in the face with a line drive.

Kopech faced a scary comebacker off the bat of Matt Skole during live batting practice on Friday at Camelback Ranch. One that forced him to get out of the way and one that, according to Kopech, might have even grazed his ear.

It's not the sight anyone wants to see for a pitcher who is just now returning from a lengthy recovery after Tommy John surgery and hasn't thrown in a game above instructional league since September 2018.

But, hey, you want to get back in the swing of things? This is what you get.

"I haven’t seen that kind of real-time feedback in a long time and that’s about as real-time as it gets," Kopech said with a chuckle after practice. "That’s what you want to experience, to see if you can get somebody or if he can get you. And he got me."

Fortunately for the White Sox, Skole didn't "get" Kopech any worse.

Kopech is an important part of the team's long-term plans and while the exact specifics of the plan for Kopech this season haven't been formally announced, it sounds like there's a good grasp on them, per manager Rick Renteria, though the skipper wouldn't reveal exactly where Kopech will begin the 2020 regular season.

"I think that we are very optimistic about where he’s at," Renteria said. "I think that the plan that the organization has in terms of how we want to start him off is probably pretty consistent in terms of where he’ll be. And then we will allow him to continue to pitch and get some innings under his belt. And I’m sure, first year after coming from the surgery, that there are parameters I’m sure we want to stay within.

"It will be still a very optimistically guarded approach to where he’s at."

So, no, we still don't know whether Kopech will begin the campaign pitching in the big leagues or at Triple-A Charlotte in an effort to manage his workload in his first year back on the mound.

Though the competitor in him probably wants to be on that 26-man roster for the March 26 opener at Guaranteed Rate Field, Kopech is willing to do whatever is necessary for him to be a part of a playoff push, pitching in meaningful games down the stretch.

RELATED: Michael Kopech is back to work at White Sox training camp but his 2020 starting point is unknown

"At the end of the day, it’s me trying to fit into a plan to make the team better collectively. And if that’s not starting with the team right away, then I’m OK with that, too," Kopech said. "I just need to do what’s the best interest of me and the team.

"Ultimately, my goal is to be able to go deep into games for 30 starts a season. Now obviously, I haven’t had the experience of doing that to the extent that I want to, especially at the big league level. But I think that’s the point of what my entire rehab process was. To build me up to where I’m going to be able to take that kind of workload."

The White Sox have been adamant about their vision that Kopech will soon be an integral part of their rotation. For those wondering if this slow-play has anything to do with health concerns from his surgery, it doesn't. He's healthy and pitching without restriction. But even before the procedure, the most innings he had thrown in a season were the 134.1 he logged in 2017, so it's understandable that the White Sox wouldn't want to overtax his arm.

The plan for spring training is also slow-moving, with Kopech still unsure when he's going to get into Cactus League action, which begins on Saturday.

"Right now, we have a plan of when I’m going to throw live BPs and when I’m going to throw bullpens. The question mark is still about when I’m getting into a game. But I think I have a plan to go at the beginning of March, around there anyway. I’m just trying to work my way up to that.

"It’s been pretty much day to day. We’re trying to really focus on spring right now and make sure my workload gets managed properly. And then by the time we get to the season, hopefully I’m ready to break with a team, whether it’s Charlotte or Chicago."

Every detail of the plan might not be public knowledge. But the plan is in place and seems to be running smoothly.

Though it probably wouldn't hurt to cut down on the number of liners aimed at Kopech's face...

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Remember That Guy: Dustin Hermanson

sox_hat_image.jpg
USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: Dustin Hermanson

One of the biggest keys to the success of the 2005 White Sox was the solid bullpen, with several pitchers having career years at the same time. Dustin Hermanson was one of those pitchers. Remember that guy?

Dustin Hermanson was born December 21, 1972 in Springfield, Ohio. He played basketball as well as baseball at Kenton Ridge High School in Springfield; he was 10-0 with an 0.56 ERA as a senior.

The big righthander was drafted 3rd overall behind Paul Wilson (Mets) & Ben Grieve (A’s), and 10 picks before the Dodgers selected Paul Konerko, in the 1994 MLB Draft. He’s one of two top-5 picks ever drafted out of Kent State University (Steve Stone’s teammate there Thurman Munson was 4th overall in 1968). Hermanson was dominant in the Texas League in 1994, posting an 0.43 ERA in 16 games (21.0 IP, 13 Hits, 30 K) and had a brief trial at triple-A Las Vegas. Entering the 1995 season, he was ranked 18th on the Baseball America top-100 prospects list and started the season at Las Vegas.

Hermanson made his MLB debut on May 8, 1995; he was the first player from the 1994 MLB draft to reach the Majors. Dustin faced three batters and retired all three; the first batter he faced was Gwynn – Chris Gwynn – and he struck him out. Hermanson recorded the win, and he’s one of only four pitchers in Padres history to record a win in relief in a Major League debut, along with Larry Hardy, Jeremy Fikac and Gerardo Reyes.

In both 1995 and 1996, Hermanson shuffled back and forth from San Diego to Las Vegas, and couldn’t find his footing. On November 21, 1996, the Padres dealt Hermanson to the Marlins in exchange for Quilvio Veras, but before he could get a chance to pitch in Miami, he was dealt again – this time with Joe Orsulak and they were sent to Montreal for Cliff Floyd. It was the change of scenery Dustin Hermanson needed. For four straight seasons, Hermanson made at least 28 starts, pitching 150+ innings and had an adjusted ERA+ of 100 or better (100 is league average). On April 16, 1997, Hermanson put his name on the short list of pitchers in MLB history to homer in his first big league at-bat, taking Shane Reynolds of the Astros deep. His next appearance was his first Major League start, which he won on April 22, 1997 at Olympic Stadium against the Cubs. He finished his first full MLB season 8-8 with a 3.69 ERA and followed it up with a 14-11 record and 3.13 ERA in 1998.

Dustin was the Expos’ opening day starter in both 1999 (a win) and 2000 (a loss). Hermanson was shifted to the bullpen after a few rough starts in May 2000 but eventually returned to the rotation in June. In December 2000, the Expos packaged Dustin with reliever Steve Kline and shipped them off to the Cardinals for Fernando Tatis and Britt Reames. After a fairly average season in St. Louis (14-13, 4.45 ERA) in which he had his first taste of postseason action (3 perfect innings and a hold in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks), Hermanson was on the move again, this time to Boston, in exchange for pitchers Rick Asadoorian & Luis Garcia and first baseman Dustin Brisson. He struggled with injuries and made it into only 12 games in 2002. 2003 was split between the Cardinals, who released him midseason, and the Giants. In 2004, Hermanson flipped between starting and relieving until settling into the closer’s role for good in August, collecting 17 saves by the end of the year. After a mediocre 4.53 ERA, Hermanson was now a free agent again.

On December 8, 2004, Hermanson signed with the White Sox. He had to serve a single-game suspension for hitting Jeff Kent with a pitch the previous September. After that, he was a revelation. Through the end of May, he had pitched 19 times and had yet to allow a run in 21.0 innings. By the end of May, he had taken over the closer’s role from Shingo Takatsu. Hermanson finally allowed his first runs of the season on June 1 and blew his first save (after starting his White Sox career 15 for 15 in save opportunities) on June 11 in San Diego. Hermanson headed into the All-Star Break with a 1.53 ERA and 21 saves, but surprisingly did not receive All-Star recognition. Hermanson was still pretty good after the All-Star break (2.86 ERA in 24 appearances), but he was slowed by a sore lower back and was used sparingly in September while Bobby Jenks picked up the slack.

As the White Sox made their historic 11-1 run in the 2005 postseason, Hermanson made only one appearance – that being in Game 3 of the World Series. He came into the game in the 8th inning trying to preserve a 5-4 lead with two out and runners on first and second.  Unfortunately, he allowed a game-tying double before getting Brad Ausmus to strikeout. And the game continued on to the 14th inning.

In 2006, Hermanson’s back woes prevented him from getting into a game until September and he made it into only six games. The White Sox declined his option for 2007 and went to spring training with the Reds, but never made it back to the Majors.

Collecting a blown save in the World Series can’t diminish an incredible 2005 season. If it weren’t for the contributions by the bullpen throughout the regular season, it’s possible that the White Sox wouldn’t have reached the postseason, let alone win the World Series. Hermanson was a key player in that respect.

He was the third overall pick in the draft and finished with a 12-year MLB career where he won 73 games and posted a 4.21 ERA. He was on a World Series-winning team. He even hit a pair of home runs. Here’s a fun fact: he tossed two career shutouts – both with the Expos and both caught by his future 2005 White Sox teammate Chris Widger.

Hermanson can be found in several “best facial hair” photo galleries online for his unique goatee. According to an October 9th David Haugh article in the Chicago Tribune: “Hermanson shaves his beard in the design of a peace sign, in part as a tribute to a heritage that makes him part-Cherokee and Seminole.”

Dustin Hermanson. We remember that guy.

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jon Garland, escape artist

0327_jon_garland.jpg
AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Jon Garland, escape artist

Jon Garland was terrific in 2005.

He made the American League All-Star team and finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote thanks to a team-high 18 wins, a 3.50 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 221 innings of work.

He picked up the first of those 18 wins in his first start of the season April 9 against the Twins with a pretty good Harry Houdini impression.

Much like most of his rotation mates did in their first outings of the season, Garland held the opposition at bay. But this wasn’t the same kind of cruise control that Mark Buehrle was on in the season opener. Garland gave up 10 hits and had traffic on the bases in nearly every one of his six innings. But only one swing of the bat accounted for all three Twins runs against him in the White Sox 8-5 win.

Garland repeatedly danced out of trouble. He stranded Nick Punto, who led off the bottom of the third with a double, thanks to a line-drive double play to Juan Uribe. In the fourth, Matt LeCroy’s one-out double went for naught with Garland getting back-to-back groundouts to escape.

The Twins got to him in the fifth inning, three runs scoring on Shannon Stewart’s home run. That blast tied the game, but the Twins had a chance to pounce all over Garland, only for him to make the perfect escape at the perfect time.

Minnesota went single, double to start the bottom of the sixth, putting two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Then Paul Konerko made a big stab on a line drive for the inning’s first out. Lew Ford’s infield single kept the runners where they were but loaded the bases with just one out.

Garland needed a double-play ball. “Make a pitch, Jon,” Darrin Jackson said while calling the game. Garland made a pitch, getting Michael Cuddyer to swing at the first one in the at-bat and ground into an enormously clutch inning-ending double play.

Escaped.

The 2005 team got sensational starting pitching from April through the end of October. And while when we think of great starting pitching 15 years later, we think of guys who go out and dominate games and strike out a dozen guys, getting the job done in any fashion ends with the same result.

Buckle up, #SoxRewind fans. Great starting pitching will be a theme.

What else?

— The Metrodome lives again. (Shudder.) There are so few old-school domes left in the majors that it’s easy to forget how awful this looked on TV. Well, maybe not that easy. The fact that it housed consistently good Twins teams that bedeviled the White Sox made South Side fans hate it so much more. But it’s just so aesthetically displeasing. Today, only the home ballparks of the Rays and kind of the Blue Jays create such upsetting visuals while watching a baseball game on TV. But the nasty carpet-style turf and fan-less wall of baggies in right field made the Metrodome one of the worst. Yuck.

— And how about the open dugouts with no fencing in front? Jacque Jones let his bat fly on a swing against Garland in the second inning, and it flew into the White Sox dugout, almost hitting Don Cooper on the bench. Juan Uribe let his bat go right toward the Twins dugout in the seventh inning. Cover up those dugouts, guy.

— And speaking of Jones, what a throw he made from right field in the top of the third, almost nabbing Tadahito Iguchi at third base on the sacrifice fly that scored the White Sox third run. Michael Cuddyer couldn’t quite get the tag down in time on Iguchi, but Jones deserves some applause for a hell of a throw.

— Come on, Timo! Hawk Harrelson’s famous screaming call came a year earlier, but Timo Perez homered in this game against the Twins, the tie-breaking bomb in the top of the seventh. It was one of just two homers he hit all season, making Ozzie Guillen look like a genius for batting him fifth while giving Jermaine Dye a breather. After getting into 103 games the season prior, Perez saw action in only 76 contests during the championship season but still played his part, as evidenced by his absolutely crushed dinger in the Metrodome.


— Boy, Pods could pedal. Acquired to bring some more speed to this White Sox lineup, Scott Podsednik sure brought that. A year after stealing a jaw-dropping 70 bases with the Milwaukee Brewers, he swiped another 59 in his first season on the South Side. He didn’t steal any in this game but still put that speed to good use. In the seventh inning, the Twins tried to pick him off first base. It didn’t work, an errant throw allowed Podsednik to get all the way to third, and he motored the remaining 90 feet home on a passed ball a few pitches later. His RBI fielder’s choice that got him on base in the first base accounted for another one of the seventh inning’s four White Sox runs. Just more of that small ball.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 6, 2005: The White Sox trailed 3-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth but scored four runs off Indians closer Bob Wickman. Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye hit back-to-back homers to tie the game, and Juan Uribe drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly. Mercy! White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 2-0.

April 7, 2005: The South Siders raced out to a 5-0 lead, but the Indians chipped away and then scored three runs in the ninth inning on three solo homers off Shingo Takatsu to force extras. They pummeled Luis Vizcaino for six runs in the top of the 11th. White Sox lose, 11-5, fall to 2-1.

April 8, 2005: In the first game of the season against the rival Twins, Orlando Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball, and Dustin Hermanson tossed two scoreless frames in relief. Konerko homered in the sixth to break a 1-all tie, and Aaron Rowand hit his first homer of the season two batters later. White Sox win, 5-1, improve to 3-1.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Saturday, when you can catch the April 11, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Another starting-pitching gem, this one from Freddy Garcia.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.