Now that MLB’s lockout is over, we can finally turn our attention back to the field and what to expect for the upcoming season. On Friday, Rick Hahn said that building out pitching depth would be a priority for the team, especially given the nature of the shortened ramp up to the regular season. That depth will be even more important in the bullpen, for several reasons. To start, Hahn said players will generally be put on a pitch count early in the year, to help protect them as they stretch out their arms. From a pragmatic standpoint, the White Sox will need help in the pen since Michael Kopech is set to join the starting rotation, and Evan Marshall, Jace Fry and Ryan Tepera are all free agents.
Given both of those factors, Hahn hinted that another young phenom, Garrett Crochet, would primarily be used as a reliever in 2022. But Hahn also suggested the team could take advantage of Crochet’s versatility.
“It may look a little similar to how Kopech was used in 2021 in terms of the occasional longer outing or the occasional spot start as needed,” Hahn said.
It makes sense, since the White Sox had aspirations for Crochet to develop into a frontline starter when they drafted him No. 11 overall in the 2020 draft. But with needs at the major-league level, and no minor league season that year, Crochet was fast tracked to the South Side to help in the pen. That’s where he remained last year, as a flexible pitcher who could be called upon to notch one out in a key spot, or to eat up several innings.
The White Sox deployed Kopech in a similarly versatile manner in 2021. Tony La Russa used him for holds in the later innings of close games, as a middle-innings bridge in case a starter didn’t have his best stuff, and even as a spot starter four times. If the White Sox want to help flesh out the bullpen, while also helping Crochet on his path to become a starter, following the team’s blueprint for Kopech could be a win-win.
All that said, Hahn did leave the door open for those plans to change, since teams and players hadn’t been in contact for nearly 100 days.
“We want to see the player and where he's at and build a plan for him once we're all together.”
If all goes to plan, Crochet may be the swiss army knife in the White Sox bullpen this year.