Is Kopech facing another off year in White Sox rotation?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech missed the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. If baseball doesn't return this year, Kopech's comeback is going to be doubly difficult.

    Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech missed the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. If baseball doesn't return this year, Kopech's comeback is going to be doubly difficult. AP File Photo/2018

 
 
Updated 5/24/2020 5:52 PM

No matter when he next steps up to a major-league mound, Michael Kopech is going to be well rested.

The White Sox's flame-throwing pitcher has been pretty much down and out since Sept. 6, 2018. That was the day after Kopech hurt his elbow during a start against the Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tommy John surgery soon followed, and Kopech missed the entire 2019 season.

When spring training opened in February, he was thrilled to be back in uniform.

"To be able to get back and actually feel like I'm part of a team, that's big for me," Kopech said. "Obviously, I would have loved to pitch last season. It kind of (stinks) to take that entire year off. But last season was a big learning curve for me.

"For the timing of it to bring me back this spring and kind of get to ramp with everybody before season starts, I think that works out perfect for me. I don't get thrown right back into the fire but I think this is a good prep phase for me."

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball on March 12, Kopech was gradually building his arm strength back up.

The 24-year-old righty pitched 1 scoreless inning in his lone Cactus League appearance and was on a good return path before play came to a screeching halt.

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On March 26, the Sox optioned Kopech to Class AAA Charlotte. The initial plan was getting him needed work in the minor leagues before being summoned back to the majors.

That plan has obviously changed.

At some point this week, owners are hoping to strike a deal with the players to launch an abbreviated regular season beginning in early July.

Rosters are set to be expanded to 30, with a 20-man taxi squad also in place.

Starting rotations would likely increase to six or seven, and outings would be brief in July and possibly into August.

If there is no minor-league baseball this year -- a very real possibility -- the White Sox would have to strongly consider using Kopech in an expanded rotation or out of the bullpen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tommy John is a common injury for pitchers at all levels these days, and it is fairly easy to come back from a one-year layoff. Missing two years would make Kopech's comeback much more difficult.

If the two sides are able to come to an agreement and get baseball back up and running, the Sox also have another starting pitcher close to coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Carlos Rodon had the reconstructive elbow procedure on May 15 last year and was originally scheduled to return in July.

That's when baseball would be back this season, and the White Sox would have decide whether Rodon, and Kopech, could return without shaking off the rust pitching in the minor leagues.

The Sox do have other starting candidates for an expanded rotation.

Ross Detwiler was serviceable at times last season after opening the year with York in the independent Atlantic League.

Joining the White Sox in late June after signing a minor-league contract, the left-hander was 3-5 with a 6.59 ERA in 18 games (12 starts).

Carson Fulmer, who has had very little success since being drafted No. 8 overall in 2015, is another starting option for an abbreviated season.

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