Kopech excelling out of White Sox bullpen
Michael Kopech broke in with the White Sox as a starting pitcher, and odds are very good he'll be back in the rotation next season.
This year, Kopech is pitching out of the Sox's bullpen.
It's a move that makes a lot of sense, considering the 25-year-old righty opted out last year and missed the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Without Kopech, White Sox starters headed into Wednesday night's game at Kansas City with the lowest ERA (3.30) and most strikeouts (625) in the American League.
Liam Hendriks has been mostly brilliant in the closer's role, but an inconsistent season from Aaron Bummer has created an opening in the critical setup role out of the Sox's bullpen.
Kopech has stepped up and filled the void.
"He's not just a starter in training, he's one of our prime-time guys with the lead," manager Tony La Russa said.
Tuesday night was a perfect example.
After the White Sox took a 5-3 lead in the eighth on Eloy Jimenez's 3-run homer, Kopech came on in the bottom of the inning and struck out Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana and Salvador Perez, arguably the Royals' three best hitters.
"You get the dramatic home run and the shutdown is really hard and he strikes out three guys right at the top of the lineup," La Russa said. "That will benefit him in this role here at the end, and it's going to have terrific benefits for him when he becomes a starting pitcher because pitching under pressure, concentrating, executing, whether you're a pitcher or a hitter, that's where the winning production comes from."
In 22 games (3 starts), Kopech is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 40⅓ innings.