Kopech throws 'healthy' bullpen session

Kimbrel 'piece of building a championship team'; Lynn a quote machine; White Sox invite 19 to camp

March 15th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Here are five takeaways from Monday's action at White Sox Spring Training.

Kopech takes the mound
Michael Kopech
threw a bullpen session at Camelback Ranch and received a solid review from manager Tony La Russa.

“You could see, just from his body language, he made a few throws [that he didn't like],” La Russa said. “He's got that admirable perfectionist thing. It's like [Vince] Lombardi said, 'You try to be perfect, and you settle for excellent.'

“But healthy, that's what I liked, and I thought his delivery was good enough. I thought he did a good job of pitching within himself. His first time out there, don't reach for that extra now, build up to it.”

La Russa spoke on Saturday of Kopech being a little behind coming into Spring Training, having not thrown any bullpens against hitters as he prepares to move from relief work to the starting rotation. General manager Rick Hahn explained on Monday how Kopech dealt with an illness after the first of the year, which derailed for a few weeks a build-up that had already begun.

“He’s fully healthy now and is able to start the process again after the illness,” Hahn said. “We expect him to build and be ready for us Opening Day.

“Again, that is part of the consideration having multiple guys stretch out. Michael, due to no fault of his own, is not going to be fully stretched out as a starter, five six innings or whatever some of these other guys are going to get prior to leaving camp here.”

Kimbrel thought of as championship piece
Hahn agreed with La Russa’s assertion of Craig Kimbrel, the current active saves leader at 372, who is expected to be part of the Opening Day bullpen. These comments came on Monday, after the free-agent additions of right-handers Joe Kelly and Vince Velasquez became official.

“I’ve spoken with Craig, with his representative, and they both fully understand we view Craig as a piece of building a championship team. He’s preparing to be part of it, which is the right step at this point,” Hahn said. “Obviously the experience and resume speak for itself. He’s very much a viable piece on a championship club. It remains to be seen exactly if that’s going to be here, but we are preparing as if it will be.

“In talking to Craig earlier in the offseason and since we’ve gotten here, all he wants to do is win. All he wants to do is win another ring. He’s been great about that since we got him last July. One of our coaches described him as A+ ever since he’s gotten here. That’s not a concern in terms of Craig’s ability to or Craig’s desire to fit in and do what he needs to do to help us win.”

Lynn in midseason quote form
It didn’t take long for right-handed starter Lance Lynn to show off his understated wit flashed so frequently during his 2021 All-Star debut with the White Sox. Monday’s question dealt with his conditioning during the lockout.

“I’m not big on conditioning ever,” Lynn said.

The reporter asked if he was serious. Lynn most certainly was.

“What, you have to run it across home plate to get anybody out?” Lynn said. “When we start doing that, that’s when I’m done.”

Lynn already has thrown two live batting practices and he is scheduled to throw three innings on Wednesday. He’s expecting a normal ramp up and talked with his fellow White Sox pitchers about getting work done during the break.

“I'm not babysitting anybody, but everybody was working,” Lynn said. “The guys that were here in Arizona were getting together and doing their thing as much as we could. Finding fields was the hard part, but for the most part, we were getting everything we could in."

Moves left to make?
While the White Sox look to be in an overall position of strength entering Cactus League action, Hahn said there’s never a point of being satisfied. Well, not unless they win a World Series championship.

“There’s always one more move to make,” Hahn said. “Sometimes you are better off not making that one more move because you don’t want to make a move simply to do it. You want to do it because it truly puts you in a better position to win.

“Conversations continue with other clubs, with free agents. Certainly, can’t predict when any of them are going to lead anywhere but it’s not going to be for lack of effort.”

Non-roster invites announced
The White Sox invited 19 non-roster players to big league Spring Training. That list featured seven free agents on Minor League contracts, including left-hander Brandon Finnegan, right-hander Kyle Crick and outfielder Dwight Smith Jr.

Outfielder Yoelqui Céspedes, along with catcher Carlos Pérez and infielder José Rodríguez, highlighted the list of 12 players invited from within the system. Céspedes is ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline.