(670 The Score) White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech is in “a very good spot” after opting out of playing in the 2020 season, new pitching coach Ethan Katz said Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve talked quite a few times,” Katz said on the Danny Parkins Show. “He’s doing great. He’s doing great. He’s getting his work done. He was in Arizona for a little over a week. He’s back in Texas currently. He’s going to be getting off the mound here in the next two weeks. Things are going great. He’s feeling great. We have a good plan in place for when he gets off the mound on stuff he can work on. He’s in a very good spot. I’m really excited the upcoming season for him.”
Kopech, 24, hasn’t spoken publicly since the team announced on July 10 that he would be sitting out the 2020 season. No specific reason was given by the White Sox at the time, though a number of players opted out because of health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the aftermath of Kopech’s decision, then-White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper acknowledged he was concerned about Kopech’s well-being. In the past, Kopech has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety.
In his early conversations with Kopech, Katz has made a point to get to know Kopech and look toward the future.
“I just talk to him more on a personal level,” Katz said. “I want him to get to know me and I get to know him and just kind of build that relationship over time. I hope to be around him for a very long time, so I don’t feel like anything needs to be kind of rushed or I don’t need to push him to tell me stuff that he’s maybe not ready to divulge or maybe he is. I know he’s going to be ready to pitch this next year. I’m here, so I’m really looking forward to getting him ready for that moment.”
Kopech hasn't pitched in an MLB regular-season game since Sept. 5, 2018, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2019 while rehabbing.
Before opting out, Kopech was expected to be a key member of the White Sox in some manner in 2020, whether it was in the rotation or out of the bullpen. Katz still believes Kopech has the potential be a top-of-the-rotation starter despite a long layoff.
“A front-line starter,” Katz said when asked what Kopech’s ceiling is. “I hope that’s where everything works out and he can be. The stuff is there. The ability to be able to repeat things and kind of (gain) consistency, that’s going to take some time, but he’s willing to put in the work from all our conversations. So I think he should be able to get with putting in the work.”