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Kopech's goal: to compete for job in spring

White Sox prospect working on mechanics in rehab from Tommy John
@scottmerkin
September 8, 2019

CHICAGO -- The phrase “normal guy” rarely is used in describing the electric mound ability possessed by Michael Kopech, the No. 17 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline. Not when you can hit 100 mph with your fastball, as an example. But hearing those words in conjunction with the White Sox

CHICAGO -- The phrase “normal guy” rarely is used in describing the electric mound ability possessed by Michael Kopech, the No. 17 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline. Not when you can hit 100 mph with your fastball, as an example.

But hearing those words in conjunction with the White Sox right-hander’s projected condition at the start of Spring Training 2020 works for the 23-year-old, who continues to go through injury rehab after having Tommy John surgery last September.

“I’m supposed to be a normal guy going into camp and compete for a starting job,” Kopech said during a phone interview from Arizona, where he is working out. “Things are going well. Been throwing a few bullpen [sessions]. Going to continue to throw some bullpens.

“Then just go day to day. This year, there’s not too much pitching in the works for me. Get ready to come back next spring, but I’ve been feeling good.”

Those bullpens being thrown by Kopech cover basically 30 to 40 pitches, and they’re based more on feel now. He’s throwing all of his pitches but being cautious about everything, trying not to overthrow and throwing his pitches consistently out of the same arm slot.

“Yeah, really just feeling myself down the hill and make sure everything is timed up correctly,” Kopech said. “I’m really excited for next season. I just feel like I’m coming back as kind of a different pitcher as far as what I was before.

“My velocity is still going to be there, and I’m still going to have the same kind of stuff. People are going to see I’m going to be able to repeat mechanics a lot better. I really take pride in working on my mechanics during this whole season.

“I don’t want to act like I’m having to revamp everything because what I was doing before wasn’t good enough,” Kopech said. “What it comes down to, we are athletes and we want to perform. If there’s a way we can prevent ourselves from getting hurt again, then we are going to do that, and cleaning up the mechanics is going to help my arm quite a bit. It’s definitely a blessing to have time to revamp the mechanics.”

Although the White Sox officially were eliminated from the 2019 playoff picture Saturday night, they have hope for major growth in ’20. Kopech figures to play a significant part of that growth, although there might be some early rust from not having pitched in a big league game since Sept. 5, 2018.

So, Kopech wouldn’t go as far as saying he expected to break camp with the team.

“I don’t know if I necessarily expect to. That’s definitely my goal going into spring,” Kopech said. “I want to break with the team and have a chance to have an impact on the team as soon as I get there. I would love to break camp and be part of the rotation from the end of March, early April.

“Again, I’m just going to go in there and doing what I’ve been working on, and hopefully it pays off. It’s pretty fun to watch [the White Sox this season], and it's going to be cool when we start clicking.”

Renteria update
White Sox manager Rick Renteria still is hoping to be back Tuesday for the start of the Kansas City home series after having surgery Friday to repair the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

“We talked to him this morning. He sounded great,” said White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who is the acting manager. “Everything went well and healing properly and getting good rest, which is important.

“He’s going to have his sling for a while. We told him [to] take care of himself, and that’s utmost important.”

He said it
“I've got to get better. I will get better. It was frustrating for me, but I'll get there and I'll figure it out.” -- Dylan Covey, who has a 14.26 ERA over 17 2/3 second-half innings.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.