Saturday, May 28, 2022

Michael Kopech Is Tired Of Being Coddled By White Sox


Michael Kopech was asked to take the lead into the starting rotation this year and help fill the void left by Carlos Rodon. So far he has answered the challenge.

Kopech has been excellent on the mound but if you blink you may miss him. That is because Kopech is averaging slightly over four innings a start.

This has been no fault of Kopech’s however. In 23 innings he has dominated to the tune of a 1.17 ERA with 23 strikeouts. Opposing hitters haven’t been able to touch him either. He is striking out and held opponents to a .169 batting average and a .221 slugging percentage.

His last outing against the Chicago Cubs on May 3rd was no different. Kopech threw four scoreless frames and recorded five strikeouts. But after just 83 pitches he was pulled after he allowed a single to Nick Madrigal to open the fifth inning.

Kopech made his displeasure known as he exited the game. As he entered the dugout he slammed his glove into the bat rack multiple times. Not being able to go deep into games has put added pressure on the White Sox bullpen. This is something that is not lost on Kopech, but it is also out of his control.

“I want to be out there, and I want to be able to go deeper into games, take the load off our bullpen and actually get a chance to be the guy on the mound for as long as I can,” Kopech told reporters after Wednesday’s start. “I didn’t get to do that today, and that’s why I was upset.”

The White Sox have been putting a pitch limit on Kopech as they attempt to ease him into the rotation. Kopech underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2019 season. He also missed the 2020 season for personal reasons. The White Sox plan is to keep a cautious approach, with Tony La Russa even suggesting that they give him a break at some point in the season.

This is frustrating for Kopech who is ready to be let off the lease and throw freely. After the game, he had a discussion with Tony La Russa to voice his displeasure. In the end, he understands why the decision was made to pull him early. But that doesn’t mean he agrees with it.

“It makes sense,” Kopech said. “I’m still not going to be happy about it. That’s nothing against the decision, that’s just me wanting to compete for as long as I can.

I want to be healthy at the end of the year, and be able to go six, seven, eight, or whatever, in July, August, September, and hopefully October. And I completely understand, but I still want to be able to do it now. I want to do it in May, I want to do it in June and July.

“I just want to give the best performance I can for my team every time I take the mound. Today could’ve been that, but I understand I had some high pitch counts in earlier innings that kind of kept me from being able to do that, too. So, I gotta be more efficient.”

Kopech was under an innings restriction last season out of the bullpen as well. But if you look at his numbers it looked like his arm was tiring near the end of the season. He threw 69.1 innings and posted a solid 3.50 ERA. His ERA per month progressivley increased as the season wore along which suggeest some fatigue. In April and May he had a 1.72 ERA. In July that number raised to 4.91 for the month and in August it ballooned up to 6.97.

With the talent in his right arm it is understandable why the White Sox want to protect it at all cost. They have a lot riding on Kopech to develop into one of the aces of the rotation.

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