White Sox

Michael Kopech is ready for 2020: 'Tommy John has been the best thing to ever happen to me'

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USA TODAY

Michael Kopech is ready for 2020: 'Tommy John has been the best thing to ever happen to me'

Here’s a bit of a head-scratcher from Michael Kopech.

“I think Tommy John has been the best thing to ever happen to me.”

Really? The White Sox and their fan base might beg to disagree, the promising young pitcher having what was supposed to be his first full season in the majors delayed until 2020 thanks to the surgery and the recovery thereafter.

But Kopech has used the time to recover, refocus and ready himself to be a part of something big on the South Side.

While getting Kopech back for 2020 is certainly a positive — as well as something that could help the White Sox transform their rotation and shift into contention mode — there are legitimate questions about what will happen once he returns to action.

As hyped as Kopech is as a fireballing pitching prospect, his next start will be just his fifth appearance as a big leaguer and will come 18 months after his last. We don’t know what kind of pitcher he’ll be in the aftermath of his recovery. We don’t know if he’ll need the same kind of time to get acclimated to the bigs that Lucas Giolito needed, that Dylan Cease is currently needing. There are plenty of unknowns.

One certainty is that Kopech is ready to return.

“I am about as ready as I can be,” he said during a conference call Thursday. “I’ve done everything I can to prepare. It’s been a long time coming, I feel like. But yeah, I feel ready to go, ready for next spring.

“Being part of the rotation is just going to be a relief once I’m able to work my way back there. First thing’s first, I have to come to spring and compete for that job.”

General manager Rick Hahn has addressed the possibility of Kopech beginning the season in the minor leagues if spring training isn’t enough to work him back to full strength, but the team expects Kopech to be ready to go once the team gets to Glendale, Arizona, in February. He’ll be a part of a very different-looking rotation for these White Sox, who have starting pitching on their offseason shopping list.

Only time will tell what Kopech will look like on a big league mound following his recovery. But he’s got nothing but great things to say about the recovery process. And he specifically touched on the effects on the mental side of his game, something that Giolito focused on last offseason and used to transform himself into an All Star.

“I’ve really been able to take a step back away from the game and allow life to catch up and for the game to slow down,” he said. “I’m taking a results-based mentality I’ve taken for most of my career and kind of rewired that. The results are only as good as the preparation I’ve put in.

“I’m trying to make sure I’m fully prepared and a well-rounded athlete, not just a hard-throwing pitcher, and come back next year with the velocity I already had as a tool but also some well polished tools I’ve tried to develop over my rehab here.

“It’s kind of tough to do with this kind of adversity, especially when you see the team sort of starting to click and you desperately want to be a part of it. And it’s what we worked hard for, to be a part of it. But at the end of the day we’re all getting a different perspective about the game altogether. And we’re getting time to work on our weaknesses.

“Absolutely, I think Tommy John has been the best thing to ever happen to me. Not just for baseball but in general.”

It’s great to hear somebody take such positivity out of something that was initially met with such dread, and Kopech speaks with plenty of confidence — no surprise there — about the future and his ability to make a successful return.

His return also adds to the growing list of reasons to be excited about the 2020 edition of the White Sox, who have the ingredients to make their long-awaited transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode. The steps forward for Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez this season, the consistent production of Jose Abreu, the huge minor league campaigns for Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, the expected moves this offseason, it all adds up to high hopes for the White Sox next season.

And Kopech is ready to be a part of that.

“To see everything coming together and what everyone has done — Timmy is going to win the batting title, Jose is going to do what Jose does, Giolito had a hell of a season — it’s just going to be a lot of fun to be a part of.

“We’re realizing how good we can be.”

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Remember That Guy: Herbert Perry – a LegenDairy Third Baseman

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AP

Remember That Guy: Herbert Perry – a LegenDairy Third Baseman

Over the last 20 years, the White Sox employed both a “Melkman” and a “Milkman.” Melky Cabrera received his nickname due to his first name. But then there was the “Milkman” Herbert Perry, who actually ran a dairy farm.

Herbert Edward Perry Jr. was born on September 15, 1969, in Live Oak, Florida. His father, Herbert Sr. (who went by Ed) ran a family dairy farm in Mayo, Florida located up where the panhandle meets the peninsula. You can’t make this up: the town briefly renamed itself Miracle Whip in 2018 as part of a marketing deal with Kraft, in exchange for funds to beautify the town.

In any event, Perry was an excellent athlete; he threw multiple no-hitters in high school and played quarterback for the football team at Lafayette High School, eventually earning a football scholarship at the University of Florida. Perry backed up Gators QB Kerwin Bell, who amazingly was also from Mayo (a town of only about 1,200) and was a teammate of future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. In addition to backup QB duties, Perry punted the pigskin as well.

But it was on the diamond where Perry was most successful, and he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round in 1991.

Herbert worked his way through the minors playing first & third base with some pop and patience at the plate leading to a Major League debut for the Tribe on May 3, 1994, at New Comiskey Park.

Perry entered the game in the bottom of the 8th inning as a defensive replacement for future Hall of Famer Jim Thome at third base and drew a walk in the top of the 9th. He earned his first Major League hit a few weeks later off Al Leiter and after a brief four-game trial was sent back to the Indians Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte, where he hit .327/.397/.505 with 13 home runs in 102 games.

Perry returned to the Indians in mid-June 1995 when Dave Winfield went to the DL and performed well in limited duty, spending most of his time at first base and hitting .315/.376/.463 in 52 games. He even saw some postseason action going 0 for 14 with a walk as the Indians eventually lost the World Series to the Braves.

When Julio Franco won the first base job for 1996 (Jim Thome was entrenched at third), Perry was shuffled back to the minors where he eventually suffered a knee injury which kept him sidelined all the way through the 1997 season. He never played another game for the Indians.

While Perry didn’t play a game in 1997, it was an eventful year. He and his brother Chan (who played 18 games over two MLB seasons with the Indians & Royals) purchased cows of their own to continue the family dairy business. Also in November, Herbert got married and later that month, he was the 34th of 35 picks by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the expansion draft.

Other notables selected by the Rays in that draft: Bobby Abreu (immediately traded to the Phillies), Dmitri Young (immediately traded back to the Reds), Esteban Yan (who allowed Konerko’s inside-the-park home run at Tropicana Field AND a home run to Jon Garland in Cincinnati) & White Sox legend Jose Paniagua.

After a year in the minors where he missed a chunk of time due to a broken hand, Perry got the call back to the Majors in May 1999. After not appearing in a Major League game since June 19, 1996, Perry had a wonderful return by collecting 8 hits and 6 RBI in his first three games back. Perry went on to play 66 games for the Devil Rays in 1999. The retiring Wade Boggs opened up the third base spot for Tampa for 2000 but the Devil (since exorcised) Rays instead acquired Vinny Castilla in a trade from the Rockies. However, Perry DID end up the Rays 2000 opening day starter at third base, but only because Castilla was nursing a rib-cage muscle injury. The Rays won that game 7-0 (Perry went 2-4 with a double), and after 7 games with the Rays he ended up on waivers at the end of April. Then the White Sox came calling.

On April 21, the White Sox skimmed the waiver wire and selected Perry from the Rays. On April 22, the White Sox & Tigers got into an infamous brawl, the aftermath of which left 16 players suspended for a total of 82 games. The following day, McKay Christensen was sent down to Charlotte (which was by now the White Sox triple-A affiliate) to make room for Perry.

At age 30, the ”Milkman” finally played in 100 games in a season (7 for the Rays, 109 for the White Sox). Initially backing up Greg Norton, he played himself into a starting role while with the Southsiders, hitting .308/.356/.483 with 12 home runs & 61 RBI. In his first start with the Sox, third baseman Perry homered in an 11-6 win over the Orioles. His .308 batting average was the best by a White Sox third baseman (minimum 50% of games at third) with at least 400 plate appearances in a season since George Kell hit .312 in 1955. Only Yoán Moncada (.315 in 2019) has done it since. From July 25-27, Perry homered in 3 straight games, which is roughly 2% of a 162-game schedule. The White Sox learned that Milkman does a lineup well.

Perry got a chance to play in the ALDS in 2000, and he milked it for all it was worth with a strong 4-for-9 (with 2 walks) performance against the Mariners even though the White Sox were swept in the series. At the team level, it was a big disappointment; the White Sox led the Majors with 978 runs scored and led the AL with a 95-67 record. For Perry, 2001 was a disappointment. He battled a strained Achilles tendon and struggled to remain on the field.

Rather than crying over spilled milk(man), in November the White Sox dealt Perry to Texas for a player to be named later (pitcher Corey Lee). Besides, Joe Crede was waiting in the wings to take over at third base, which he eventually did for good in 2003.

Perry flourished in the Lone Star State in 2002, as he hit .276/.333/.480 with career highs in games (132), home runs (22 – finishing 3rd on the Rangers behind Alex Rodriguez’s 57 and Rafael Palmeiro’s 43) and RBI (77). Unfortunately, the Milkman was at the wrong place at the wrong time. By 2003, Hank Blalock took over at the hot corner and Perry’s playing time was condensed (partially due to another injury). He saw his last MLB action in 2004.

The family dairy farm was sold shortly after Herbert’s father died in December 2004. Perry moved on to running a company in Mayo where he molds and delivers septic tanks throughout Lafayette County.

Herbert Perry was a solid player who could really hit when he was healthy. It’s a shame we never got a chance to see him deliver for an extended period of time. But we remember the Milkman fondly!

Sources:

Holy Cow: A Season Worth Milking

Written by Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2000

 

SABR BioProject: Herbert Perry

Written by Jay Hurd

 

No Longer The ‘Milkman,’ Perry Tries a Pre-Cast Side to Life

Written by George Castle, chicagobaseballmuseum.org August 29, 2016

 

Baseball-Reference.com

 

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White Sox free agent focus: Taking advantage of the Cuban connection with Yasiel Puig

White Sox free agent focus: Taking advantage of the Cuban connection with Yasiel Puig

Baseball free agency is heating up as the weather gets colder. This week we are breaking down 10 potential free-agent targets for the White Sox ahead of the Winter Meetings.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Indians

Age: 28 (turns 29 on Dec. 7)

2019 salary: $9,700,000

2019 stats: .267 BA, .327 OBP, .458 SLG, .785 OPS, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 76 R, 19/26 SB 

What Puig would bring to the White Sox

A playoff-experienced, veteran bat still in his 20s who is fun to watch. Puig would also join Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal and eventually Luis Robert to give the White Sox five Cubans in the same lineup.

Puig isn't the premier bat some thought he was/would be after his first two years in the majors. Puig had a .925 OPS as a 22-year-old rookie in 2013. He backed that up with a solid .863 OPS a year later. He hasn't had an OPS above .840 since.

That said, he's still a solid bat and would be a major upgrade from what the White Sox had in right field in 2019. He's been up and down since his first two years, but has still been above average offensively over the past five seasons (109 OPS+ over that span).

Puig draws a decent amount of walks (something lacking in the White Sox lineup) and is a solid fielder with a strong arm. He wouldn't slide into the middle part of a White Sox order that features Abreu, Moncada, Grandal and Eloy Jimenez, but he would go a long way toward filling out the lineup with solid bats 1-9.

He's also played in 58 playoff games thanks to his six years with the Dodgers. Puig has a .780 OPS in the postseason.

What it would take to get him

Puig's age should make him attractive to teams in need of an outfielder, but he hasn't been trending positively offensively.

Jay Bruce got three years at $13 million per year from the Mets heading into 2018 when he was two years older than Puig is now. That seems like a reasonable comparison with Puig's age making him more likely to get a fourth year.

Why it's a fit for the White Sox

He's not out of their price range, he fills a positional need and he might be enticed to join the ever-growing Cuban contingent on the White Sox.

Puig isn't going to turn the South Siders into contenders by himself, but he would make them a better team. With Yasmani Grandal already on board, Puig would be a nice second addition to the lineup. On top of that, it's easy to see him becoming a fan favorite because of his boisterous personality.