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Sox trumpet Kopech's 'excellent progress' after sim game

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Michael Kopech's return is getting closer.

Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa trumpeted what he called "excellent progress" after Kopech threw a simulated game Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The fireballing right-hander, on his way back from a strained hamstring, will throw another simulated game Monday, according to La Russa, as the White Sox decide whether Kopech will require a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte or accomplish enough working in Chicago that he can return to the active roster without one.

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But the first one, it sounded, went well.

"Saw exciting progress," La Russa said. "Arm had that life. ... He had good command of all of his pitches. Had him do a little fielding and threw a couple of pickoffs.

"Wait and see how he feels tomorrow, but right now, I think the best thing would be to maybe do another simulated (game) on Monday, but he's making excellent progress.

"He's going to want to do well when he gets here. Is it better that he take some innings down at Charlotte, or is he ready to go? This is really the best set of observations that we've had so far, and we'll get another set Monday, and be closer to a decision."

Kopech's been out since awkwardly falling on the mound during a May 26 game against the St. Louis Cardinals, hobbling off the field at the close of the inning. After a brief stay on the bereavement list, he's been on the injured list, with his return date unknown.

 

There's still no return date being shared by the White Sox as they monitor his next steps with no intention to rush back a pitcher who missed the last two seasons.

"I think he can see the progress," La Russa said. "The more he gets and lets it go, the more he can test exactly how that hamstring feels when you're thinking about throwing and not being careful.

"That's where you want to be sure that we don't push it before we're absolutely certain that you get it into a game and just let it all go, that it's ready to take the stress."

When he does return, Kopech figures to be a huge boost for a White Sox bullpen that is still searching for the consistent success that was envisioned for the unit during the spring. Kopech has been terrific as a multi-inning relief weapon for La Russa, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the skipper deploy him that way come playoff time.

It's then when the White Sox want Kopech at full strength so he can contribute during the most important games of the campaign, the end goal of what they pitched as a "creative" strategy to use the pitcher throughout 2021. While a stay on the injured list was never part of that plan, it could have a bit of a silver lining in helping to limit Kopech's workload after going two and a half years without an appearance.

Considering how the injuries have piled up for these White Sox, getting anyone back — particularly someone of Kopech's caliber — will seem a godsend as they continue to chase a championship.

"We definitely need him," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said. "Big power arm, he was throwing well before he went on the IL. Just to get him back healthy, that's definitely going to help the bullpen out. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off at."

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