White Sox

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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Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn 'intrigued' by offseason talks White Sox are involved in

The baseball offseason is moving at a quicker pace than recent years, and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is among those happy to see that.

Hahn and the White Sox contributed to that quick start to the offseason by signing Yasmani Grandal on Nov. 21. He said he prefers that in an interview with Bruce Levine and Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score on Saturday.

Hahn also gave an update on the team’s offseason.

“We still have work to do, but at the same time we’re obviously quite pleased to have added Yasmani Grandal, much to no one’s surprise bringing back Jose Abreu and we’re intrigued by some of the talks we have going on right now,” Hahn said. “Obviously you can’t convert on everything, a point that was publicly driven home this past week, but at the same time we know that regardless of whether we convert on one specific target or not, there are still a lot of reasons to be excited based on the guys we currently have, much less what we may add in the coming weeks.”

The comment about being unable to convert on everything is surely a reference to Zack Wheeler signing with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hahn didn’t give any hints as to what the White Sox are working on, but he did say he prefers the speed of this offseason.

“We’d certainly prefer to do things sooner rather than later,” Hahn said. “That’s generally true regardless of the time of year.”

If Hahn wants to get things done quickly, it would make sense that the winter meetings could be a time of White Sox activity. Hahn wasn’t biting on that.

“There’s nothing magical about getting a deal done Tuesday at the winter meetings,” Hahn said. “It creates a little more buzz perhaps and fulfills some expectations within the fanbase and the media.

“A guy is not going to have any less impact on your team if you acquire him Dec. 20 vs. Dec. 12.”

Hahn also gave updates on various current players on the team:

  • Yasmani Grandal has been studying up on White Sox pitchers and how he can help the young pitchers develop.

“This guy’s No. 1 goal and No. 1 priority is to make the pitchers better," Hahn said. "He’s texting me two, three times a week still with stuff he had seen on our guys and conversations he’s had with our guys about how he thinks we’re going to be able to get them better in the coming months.”

  • Hahn was asked if the White Sox would add another middle infielder to provide cover until Nick Madrigal comes up. He didn't rule it out, but cited Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick as capable of helping out. Hahn has previously said he expects Madrigal to be up for most of the 2020 season.
  • Nothing new here, but Hahn said Michael Kopech will enter spring training "without restriction" and will have "some innings management" throughout the season. Kopech missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2018 season.
  • Carlos Rodon's timeline to return from Tommy John surgery hasn't changed. Hahn said they will re-evaluate him in April to see where he is after spring training. He is still tentatively expected to return in late July or early August.

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Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Are the White Sox about to sign Marcell Ozuna or not?

Depending on which report you choose to believe, the White Sox could be on the verge of filling the void in their outfield with one of the bigger names on this winter’s free-agent market.

Dominican reporter Frank Castillo tweeted Saturday that the White Sox will sign Marcell Ozuna, planning to announce the free-agent deal Monday.

Well, that was followed up by a report from The Score’s Bruce Levine, who said the White Sox are not about to sign Ozuna.

So there’s that.

The White Sox were connected to Ozuna earlier this offseason, as well as more recently, with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writing last week that the team had interest in Japanese import Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but were waiting to hear on the decisions of Ozuna and fellow free agent Nicholas Castellanos first.

Ozuna turned heads with his fantastic 2017 season for the Miami Marlins, when he slashed .312/.376/.548 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs. Since being dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, Ozuna hit .263/.327/.452 with 52 homers and 177 RBIs in two seasons.

The White Sox have a pressing need in right field, making it little surprise that they’ve been tied to numerous options, including Ozuna, Castellanos and Joc Pederson. Ozuna, though, exclusively played left field in St. Louis. Were the White Sox to add him, would they insist he play right field? They’ve expressed little to no interest in moving Eloy Jimenez out of left field.

It’s rumor season, and there should be plenty more of them with the Winter Meetings starting Monday in San Diego. The White Sox are expected to continue the aggressive approach they’ve displayed already this winter with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and their reported high bid to Zack Wheeler, who took less money to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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