What will '23 role be for these Sox hurlers?

November 21st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Scott Merkin's White Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Ethan Katz provided enough information to fill up two newsletters and a sidebar during his Zoom session Thursday afternoon. Here are three hurlers discussed by the White Sox pitching coach during that 18-minute conversation.

The right-hander had surgery on his right knee at the end of September to fix a painful issue he dealt with through much of his first full season as a starter in 2022. Kopech is currently in Texas and going through his rehab, according to Katz, which is going well.

“It’s going to be a little slower progression than we originally thought, but he’s still on track to be ready for spring full go,” Katz said. “We have it mapped out for him breaking camp, being able to finish camp at five innings and 85 pitches, which would put him in a good spot to start the season.”

Kopech made 25 starts and pitched 119 1/3 innings in ’22, posting a 3.54 ERA and 105 strikeouts against 57 walks. That year of starter’s development, along with being healthy, should put him in an even better place for ’23.

“He’s in a good spot,” Katz said. “He just has to keep crushing his rehab. He’s doing well and we expect him to have a normal offseason here shortly.”

In Katz’s mind, starting isn’t realistically in the cards this season for the left-hander working his way back from Tommy John surgery, which he had prior to the ’22 campaign.

“In the bullpen, you have a better opportunity to manage him a little bit more, to take care of him and he can get multiple ups so he’s still getting a workload under him,” Katz said. “But it’s a little bit more controlled, whereas starting you have to take care of the other guys on the team as well.

“Starting for me, personally ... I think it might be a little bit tough next year. Kind of see where things unfold after that.”

Crochet is throwing from 120 feet, but the White Sox haven’t laid out a ’23 plan for the southpaw.

“When you're dealing with Tommy John, guys come back in 10 months, 12 months. Some guys take 14, 16 months,” Katz said. “Obviously, he's very important to what we do in the big leagues and whatever role that is, that's to be determined.

“Right now, he needs to get through his rehab, and that's going well. He should be an impact in some sort of way next year.”

Don’t look for López to return to the rotation, where he was the team’s top starter in ’18. He’s now an extremely valuable bullpen component.

“Ultimately, his goal is to be a closer one day,” Katz said. “That’s where I feel like his mind is, and the conversations I’ve had with him, he likes that environment.

“We haven’t had conversations about him starting. He enjoys the role he’s in. If he wants to talk about starting again, we can, but I think he’s happy where he is.”