It is still early but the White Sox bullpen has not been as advertised. A group that had a dream of going 90-0 with a lead this season has blown two eighth inning leads. In the Sox only win of the season, Liam Hendriks allowed a two run homer in the ninth inning along with a walk that made things much more interesting than it should have been.

Some of these blown leads can be attributed to defensive mistakes so it is too soon to bail on this unit just yet. A major reason why is what Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet did on back to back nights. The White Sox first three starters were tauted before the season on their ability to eat innings. Unfortunately, Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn only lasted a combined 14 innings. The two flame throwing prospects who are projected to be starters in the future were forced to step up.

Kopech Dazzles In His Debut

On Friday night Michael Kopech showed just how impactful he can be for the White Sox coming out of the pen. Not only did Kopech eat up innings, he was able to keep the Angels offense at bay in some high leverage situations.

Kopech has not thrown a pitch in a regular season game in over two years. Instead of easing him back he was thrown into the fire. Tony La Russa called upon him to hold onto a one run lead. In his first major league game since 2018 Kopech tossed two perfect innings. His stuff was electric. In the sixth inning he threw seven fastballs. They were clocked at 98.2, 99.4, 99, 99.1, 98.6, 99.1 and 99.3 mph. The final one blew past Max Stassi for a swinging strikeout. In the seventh inning sandwiched a pair of strikeouts between a David Fletcher popup to first base.

He walked Mike Trout to start the eighth inning and his night was over. But the damage had been done and his teammates took notice.

Dallas Keuchel showed his gratitude after the game saying “I was very impressed with Michael. What’s not to like about that kid? He has pretty much every tool in the trade. I did’t expect anything less, to be honest with you. Mike is going to be a stopper for a reason, and whenever we decide to move him back into the rotation, he’s going to one of the best starters in the league, as well.”

Liam Hendriks also showed Kopech some love saying “obviously what Kopey was able to do last night was fantastic. Not only did he soak up quality innings, but he soaked up some quality innings in a high leverage situation, which is huge.”

The White Sox were able to tack on some insurance runs and went onto win 12-8. Kopech was rewarded with the first win of 2021 for his efforts. Obviously the ultimate goal is to work Kopech into the rotation by the end of the year. But while he is in the bullpen the White Sox should take advantage of his services. In the bullpen Kopech does not need to pace himself so he can unleash the full force of his fastball. He also has the ability to eat up multiple innings because of his experience starting. If the White Sox need a long reliever Kopech fits the job description. If they need to hold onto a one run lead in the later innings, Kopech fits the job description. He is a nice luxury to have.

Crochet Picks Up Where He Left Off

Garret Crochet was a weapon out of the White Sox bullpen last year. Like Kopech he throws gas and can eat innings. He was drafted with the intentions of becoming a starter. But for now he serves as a lethal left out of the pen. He saw what Kopech did Friday and said ‘anything you can do I can do better.’

On Saturday night the White Sox starter was once again knocked out before completing five innings. Crochet entered the game with traffic on the base paths in the form of runners on first and second. A wild pitch then advanced the runners to second and third. Crochet remained unfazed and punched out Jared Walsh to escape the jam. He returned for the sixth inning and threw a perfect 1-2-3 inning then followed that up with another perfect inning. He ended the night with 2.1 innings of scoreless ball, allowing no hits and tallying three strikeouts.

 

If not for Evan Marshall he would have earned the win. These type of performances are going to help the White Sox win a ton of games this season. If the White Sox starter has a bad outing the White Sox will never be out of a game knowing they have two potential aces coming out of the bullpen.The velocity that Crochet shows mixed with a devastating slider makes him especially effective because of his ability to endure swings and misses. After the defensive circus shown early on in the season, the fewer balls in play, the better.

 

Mitchell Kaminski
Mitchell studies sports communications at Bradley University and works for Braves Vision, an organization that works alongside ESPN broadcasting games and covering Bradley sports. Creator of Dorm Room Dispute podcast.