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Kopech playing catch as he begins long rehab

White Sox pitching prospect underwent TJ surgery in September
MLB.com @scottmerkin

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Michael Kopech played catch again Wednesday on a back field of the White Sox complex at Camelback Ranch as part of his rehab work following Tommy John surgery last September to repair an ulnar collateral ligament tear.

General manager Rick Hahn said the right-hander is exactly where he should be right now.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Michael Kopech played catch again Wednesday on a back field of the White Sox complex at Camelback Ranch as part of his rehab work following Tommy John surgery last September to repair an ulnar collateral ligament tear.

General manager Rick Hahn said the right-hander is exactly where he should be right now.

"Physically he's in a very good spot, and mentally we have to keep him in a good spot," Hahn said. "The rehab from this procedure obviously is very precise and very proven. But it's difficult to keep mentally focused through the whole period.

"In reality, he needs to be on one of those mounds a year from today, and he's well on his way to doing that. There is no need to accelerate the thing whatsoever. From time to time, we might need to remind Michael of what the actual goal is. He's eager to get back."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

That eagerness or high level of competitiveness only will help Kopech in this recovery, per White Sox manager Rick Renteria.

"His personality is one that drives him to even speed it up, at which point in time we're going to slow him down, obviously," Renteria said. "But to say that I would want somebody to be less driven than him? No, not at all. I'm glad that he's driven to be who he is, and that he wants to be out on the mound, and it will be up to us to slow him down when we need to."

Kopech is ranked as the 18th-best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

Video: Renteria discusses talented Moncada's improvement

Moncada drawing Renteria's focus
Renteria pointed to how Yoan Moncada continues to improve as one major thing he would be curious about during the upcoming weeks at Spring Training.

"I know he's been very conscientious about what he wants to do over the course of the winter to get himself ready for the coming season," Renteria said. "A lot of young new guys in our organization, some pitching we've acquired, I'd like to see all those guys."

More than anything, Renteria believes the organization is in a different phase entering this season coming off of a 62-100 effort in 2018. So he's studying how some of these younger players step forward.

"We expect a lot. We don't sell ourselves short," Renteria said. "We're going to shoot high and there's a way you go about doing that. I think these guys, once they are all together and we have our initial big meeting, it should be a pretty good one and we'll have insight as to how we want to move forward."

Tweet from @whitesox: Back in action. #SoxSpringTraining pic.twitter.com/hP93p4kS3Y

Side sessions start camp
Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer and MLB Pipeline's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Dylan Cease, were three of the hurlers who threw bullpens during Wednesday's first day of White Sox camp. A fully healthy Rodon looks to be the early favorite to get the Opening Day nod at Kansas City.

"It's fun to see Carlos out there now," Hahn said. "He looks free and easy. Ricky and I were talking about it during his sideline just a few minutes ago. He looks very comfortable. He's coming in here just like any other pitcher.

"You can tell that the psychological burden of being hurt or recovering is gone. He's ready to take that next step in his career now. Knock on wood he looks good. He's in a really good spot to take off on some of the success he's been able to piece together while healthy the last couple of years."

Tweet from @whitesox: .@DylanCease kicked off #SoxSpringTraining looking 🔥������ pic.twitter.com/wbMqHgh1Lh

McCann maintains Central focus
After playing the first five years of his career with Detroit, catcher James McCann stayed with the familiarity of the American League Central by joining the White Sox via free agency.

"It's definitely a bonus. I can't lie," McCann said. "When the White Sox came calling it was definitely intriguing to be able to stay in the AL Central and to play the Tigers 19 times.

"Most important for me in Spring Training is to learn the new guys, what makes them tick and their repertoire. Being here and getting to meet guys in an atmosphere where we're not competing against each other has been crucial."

They said it
"I think it's going to be exciting. I think the guys are ready to go. You look all around here, I got here at 6:30 [a.m.] and all the guys were pretty much here. That shows you the attitude and how we're going to go about things this year." -- Yonder Alonso, on the team's excitement for 2019

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