Sox relieved, encouraged by Kopech news

June 13th, 2022

White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech left his Sunday start against the Rangers with right knee discomfort after two batters, departing following the fifth pitch of an eventual strikeout of Adolis García finished off by Reynaldo López.

Chicago eventually dropped the series finale, 8-6, in 12 innings.

While the initial event -- and Kopech's response to it -- was alarming, Monday's news out of Detroit offered a much better prognosis. Manager Tony La Russa said medical staff drained fluid from Kopech's knee prior to the series opener against the Tigers. He was comfortable after the procedure and had regained range of motion, enough so that he's increasingly unlikely to miss time.

"He'll throw a bullpen [on Thursday's off-day], and decide if he can pitch this weekend," La Russa said.

Even if the 26-year-old misses Sunday's scheduled start, La Russa said, that would be a move made out of caution, not a nod to the seriousness of the injury.

"The [one] thing I told him -- we preach this all the time -- there's urgency now, but in his case, there's a lot of future," La Russa said Monday. "We're never going to jeopardize the urgent now for the urgent future. So, if there's any doubt, he won't pitch. We'll get somebody else."

Kopech got a 3-1 called strike on the pitch to García, but winced after throwing the pitch and walked around behind the mound. La Russa and assistant athletic trainer Josh Fallin checked on Kopech, who tried to throw a warmup pitch but could not and slammed the ball to the field as he walked off.

That frustration came from not being able to go deep into the game for a team with a taxed bullpen, and from one of the truly elite starters during the season’s first 2 1/2 months. It also stemmed from fear of a more significant injury.

“A little bit of both. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of time missed since my debut,” Kopech said. “When something like this happens, you start running through all those thoughts again.

“But the more I sat in there, things were going to be OK. Watching the team on a day where we needed to eat some innings, it’s frustrating. And to lose a tough one like that, it’s more frustrating. There’s a lot of built-up tension from wanting to compete and not getting that opportunity.”

AJ Pollock helped Kopech on the first batter of the game, taking away a home run from Marcus Semien with a leaping catch in left. Corey Seager grounded out for the only other out recorded by Kopech. Johnny Cueto, who was scheduled to start Monday in Detroit and hadn’t even stretched Sunday, threw five innings behind López and the Kopech injury.

“I felt a twinge, pinch or pop or whatever you want to call it. I felt like I couldn’t get on it again. It sounds like it felt worse than what it was,” said Kopech, who has a 1.92 ERA this season.