(670 The Score) While the White Sox’s long-term plan is for 24-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech to be a staple of their rotation, he'll fill a different role to open the 2021 season.
Kopech will initially be used out of the bullpen, where the White Sox want him to continue to focus on his all-around repertoire.
"We expect him to keep working on all of his pitches,” manager Tony La Russa said. “With guys who are developing, you want to see them work on all of their pitches. When they are in the bullpen though, you might see guys like him concentrate on just one dominant pitch they can command and a good secondary pitch.”
Kopech is comfortable with the plan to work out of the bullpen, and he has been following the example of teammates to make a few adjustments to his own routine.
"Just getting used to pitching every couple of days will be an adjustment for me,” Kopech said. “I have just been following along with the plan that guys like (Aaron) Bummer and (Liam) Hendriks used. I will find what works for me and adjust from there.
"I first must realize that short-term recovery will be important. Pitch selection will also be a bit different.”
Kopech hasn’t pitched in a regular-season MLB game since Sept. 5, 2018, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2019. Kopech then opted out of playing in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
After he missed so much time, White Sox management sat down with Kopech to outline the plan to head to the bullpen and then progress from there in his workload as the season continues.
Kopech’s ambition remains to be a starting pitcher, and that’s the team’s goal too. He also understands it’s a process, and he has found some inner peace in just being back on the diamond and focusing on baseball again.
"I am not worried about celebrity status or fame,” Kopech said. “I am focused on my career, family, and friends and teammates. I feel I can prioritize life because of certain circumstances. Popularity is not even on the list
“Peace, I believe like any emotion, is a fleeting feeling. I am at peace with what I can control. There are so many unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances I have nothing to do with.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.