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Kopech looks to teammates for support

White Sox prospect gets Tommy John advice from Fry, Giolito
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Lucas Giolito had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31, 2012, during the infancy of his professional career with the Nationals. Jace Fry underwent the same surgery as a sophomore at Oregon State and then had a second one performed in 2015 with the White Sox organization.

So, Michael Kopech, the No. 13 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, has some good resources to tap into as he prepares to undergo the same procedure. Kopech was diagnosed with a significant tear of the ulnar collateral ligament after an examination Friday, with Tommy John surgery as the recommendation. He is projected to be out until Spring Training in 2020.

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CHICAGO -- Lucas Giolito had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31, 2012, during the infancy of his professional career with the Nationals. Jace Fry underwent the same surgery as a sophomore at Oregon State and then had a second one performed in 2015 with the White Sox organization.

So, Michael Kopech, the No. 13 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, has some good resources to tap into as he prepares to undergo the same procedure. Kopech was diagnosed with a significant tear of the ulnar collateral ligament after an examination Friday, with Tommy John surgery as the recommendation. He is projected to be out until Spring Training in 2020.

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"He came in here and it was like, 'Hey, I need the surgery done,'" said Fry of Kopech. "He accepted it. He was already talking about who he was going to see for the surgery and where he wanted to do his rehab and stuff like that. The fact that he has already progressed into the surgery situation, he's on the right path."

"I talked to him about it yesterday plenty," Giolito said. "There's kind of two sides to it, the way I see it. You have the physical side and the mental side."

Giolito explained the physical side as "obviously getting the surgery, recovering, getting to physical therapy, getting your routine set for the physical side of the recovery process, which is getting your range of motion back." That's followed by "getting with your PT, getting with the training staff and just hammering out the little mundane exercises you have to do every day just to get your arm right."

As for the mental side, beyond the grind of the rehab, Kopech will have to get through the ups and downs within the throwing program.

"There's going to be times where you have scar tissue releases," Giolito said. "There's going to be times when your arm doesn't feel good on a certain day, but you just push through it because it's part of your throwing program.

"Especially once you get through all that and get through your first full season, you're going to have games where your arm doesn't feel good. It's a pretty long process, but the biggest thing is just being mentally tough through it all. For my case, I had the surgery as an 18-year-old. Going through that process helped me develop a certain level of mental toughness that has helped me in my career."

When Giolito had the surgery, he was at peak velocity, touching 100 mph with his fastball and pitching at 95 to 97 mph. His velocity was the same when he came back, but he also developed a changeup for the first time during the rehab process.

Fry threw his slider harder after the second surgery, while also correcting timing on his arm swing on the back side, causing him to stab and hook. As was mentioned many times on Friday, this surgery is just a blip for Kopech and actually could produce helpful routines for his future career.

"Obviously we're down," Giolito said. "We feel bad for him and it sucks for the team. We see him as a great teammate, first and foremost, and, secondly, as a huge part of the future of this team, starting-pitching staff. He's a big part of that.

"It's unfortunate we're going to lose him for one year, but it's not the end of the story. He's going to get the surgery, recover from it well, get through the PT, rehab and he'll be just as good as he was, if not better."

Injury updates

Jose Abreu and Leury Garcia both took light batting practice off Nate Jones and Rob Scahill on Saturday and are getting closer to returning, said White Sox manager Rick Renteria. Abreu had surgery to relieve pain caused by testicular torsion and Garcia has been out of action with a left hamstring injury.

"LeRoy is feeling good," Renteria said. "He's probably a little further away, but we'll check and see how he feels tomorrow."

Abreu, who last played on Aug. 20, could be back in action Monday in Kansas City after he's put through a little more work prior to Sunday's series finale.

Jones, out since June 12 with a pronator strain, threw Saturday and looked good. He will have a couple days off and then either throw another simulated game or the right-hander will be activated.

"Our hope is he will be back," said Renteria of Jones.

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

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech