Notes: Kopech's knee; Robert's name; Grandal

February 18th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- arrived a little early to Spring Training in order to finish his rehab following end-of-season surgery to repair a right knee meniscus tear.

“I’m at a point where the knee’s feeling better, the shoulder’s feeling better,” the White Sox starting pitcher said on Friday. “But it’s just kind of smoothing things out and getting back to 100%. I feel ready. It will be a little bit before I get to hitters.”

That gradual buildup still should leave Kopech set to break camp as part of the White Sox rotation at the outset of the 2023 season. Manager Pedro Grifol said Kopech won’t be on the mound in the opening series in Houston but “probably the second series,” which could mean the home opener against the Giants on April 3.

“He’s just got to be healthy throughout the spring,” said Grifol, who didn’t have a Cactus League innings total in mind for Kopech to be ready. “If he’s healthy throughout the spring, he’ll be ready to go.”

Said Kopech: “With surgery, it takes a while to get to feeling yourself again. Ultimately, it was not a major surgery. It was a surgery that was a little bit of time consumption. For the most part, I feel comfortable on it. I just have to get back to being explosive and being myself again.”

New name, same talent
Luis Robert will be Luis Robert Jr. henceforth. That change came from his dad.

“He was messing around with me: ‘Why is everybody using Jr. and you're not?’” Robert said, via interpreter Billy Russo. “In Cuba, we are not used to it.

“But here, he started seeing other players doing it, and he started going, ‘Why are you not doing it? Are you going to do it?’ I said, ‘You want me to do it?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ So that's why I started doing it.”

The high level of talent hasn’t changed for Robert Jr., who is one of the game’s most complete players when healthy.

“There’s really nothing on the field he can’t do,” Grifol said. “This guy has an opportunity to win an MVP, in my opinion. If he puts it all together, it’s special.”

Full-time catcher
Yasmani Grandal will see games as the White Sox designated hitter in ’23. But Grifol is not thinking of his catcher anywhere but behind the plate.

“I talked to him yesterday about it, and we want him to play as many games as he feels like he can play. He’s a big part of this thing,” Grifol said. “We’re anticipating him playing quite a bit in the spring, as well.

“He’s our catcher, and we want him to catch. Right now, he’s working to do that. How many games he gets back there throughout the year, it’s just going to be based on how he’s feeling, our communication and what’s going on.”

Lynn is Classic-ready
Lance Lynn knew at the end of last season that there was a good chance he could join Team USA for the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He adjusted his offseason workouts accordingly.

“To be honest, you just start bullpens a little earlier. Throwing-wise was normal,” Lynn said. “If you don’t make the playoffs, you get that time off during the playoffs to rest.

“So Nov. 1 was when I started throwing. Kind of normal offseason. Jumped on the mound a little earlier than I normally would have, but that’s about it.”

Lynn, one of the college players on the 2007 U.S. team that produced a 4-1 record at the Pan American Games, said his WBC debut means a great deal.

“I was 19, 20 years old and didn’t quite understand what that meant back then,” Lynn said. “Being a little older and being around and seeing a lot of different things, it’s definitely an opportunity I’m looking forward to.”