CHICAGO -- As Triple-A Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty joined Monday morning's White Sox conference call, he was informed that most, if not all, questions would focus on Michael Kopech."That's what this is about?" said McCatty, in perfect deadpan.Kopech's Major League debut on Tuesday night against the Twins at Guaranteed
CHICAGO -- As Triple-A Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty joined Monday morning's White Sox conference call, he was informed that most, if not all, questions would focus on Michael Kopech.
"That's what this is about?" said McCatty, in perfect deadpan.
Kopech's Major League debut on Tuesday night against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field will become the biggest event of the 2018 season for the rebuilding White Sox. The 22-year-old is Chicago's No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and No. 13 overall.
During his past seven starts for the Knights, Kopech has struck out 59 over 44 innings, but more importantly, he has walked just four. He's ready for the big league challenge -- one that the White Sox had in mind for him even last season.
"When Michael finished  at Triple-A, our hope was that we'd be able to, from a development standpoint, get him to the Majors this year, during the 2018 season," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn on Monday. "Given that he's only 22 years old at this point, it wasn't essential that that happened.
"But from continuing to progress him along in his career and putting him in the best position to reach his considerable ceiling, we felt that a trip to Chicago this year would make the most sense. That is both from a standpoint of being able to see how his stuff plays, and going into the offseason with an understanding of how big league hitters react to his stuff and perhaps any adjustments he has to make heading into the 2019 season, but also from the standpoint of building up his innings base."
That base currently sits at 126 1/3, eight below his career high of 134 1/3 in 2017. Hahn said the plan for Kopech is to take the ball every five days for the White Sox, but Chicago also will be cognizant of his workload down the stretch.
Lucas Giolito, as an example, had a total of 128 2/3 innings when he came up from Charlotte on Aug. 22, 2017 -- eight below his single-season career high. Giolito then made seven starts with the White Sox, throwing 45 1/3 innings.
"We are soon going into uncharted-innings territory for him, so we're going to want to remain flexible and continue to monitor where he's at from a stuff standpoint and how he's feeling mechanically," Hahn said. "And if we have to adjust the rotation over the final stretch run, we will do that again.
"At this time, we anticipate Michael taking the ball every fifth day and sticking to a five-man rotation. But again, we're going to remain flexible, and if we have to adjust down the stretch, we certainly will."
Hahn mentioned that both of his sons plan to attend Tuesday's game, with one of them already owning a Kopech jersey. Many White Sox fans will be there with them. It will be a moment filled with excitement in the middle of Year 2 of a developmental process Hahn talked about it being the most difficult within the rebuild before the season began, and it has played out as such.
It's an opportunity Kopech has earned, with his fastball reaching 100 mph and a more polished four-pitch repertoire, not to mention his strength and adjustments made over the past seven starts.
"Because you touch 100 mph, it doesn't mean you have to throw every pitch 100 mph. You don't have to always work at maximum velocity throwing it as hard as you can," McCatty said. "If we have to dial it up a little bit, which is a pretty nice thing to sit at 96, 97, and you can dial it up to 100, he has been able to do that here. He's repeating his mechanics, and he's locating pitches -- locating his fastball, his curveball that he's had this year. Slider, plus the changeup that he's been throwing. He's made a lot of progress."
"You will see a slightly different pitcher from the one many of you saw in Glendale," Hahn said. "His command has improved, his breaking ball has become much sharper, [it] is now a swing-and-miss pitch. We are certainly very excited to see Michael challenged by the next level here in the coming weeks."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.