An unsuccessful hunt for silver lining after Michael Kopech’s injury

There are worse times for Tommy John surgery, but no real better ones

When looking for somebody to take Michael Kopech’s spot on the active roster, there are better choices than Rob Scahill.

But also, Scahill is the perfect choice to capture the feelings of this particular moment.

That’s nothing against Scahill in particular, but it speaks to the challenges of trying to replace Kopech in any facet. Maybe the Sox could’ve called up Jordan Stephens or Spencer Adams or some other young arm to simulate the stimulation of seeing a prospect face MLB hitters for the first time, but that wouldn’t come close to generating the same amount of intrigue. Calling up a 31-year-old reliever with a 5.64 ERA is the roster move equivalent of Rick Hahn is holing up with a couple of gallons of ice cream and eating his feelings until September ends, which I suppose is a better decision than texting Chris Volstad to see if he’s up. Besides, the answer is beer.

(I wonder what this says about the internal valuations of Stephens and Adams, both of whom are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. If one or both were going to be added to the 40-man roster, they may as well get the jump on the process now.)

Without another legitimate pitching prospect immediately able to soak up those starts, there isn’t a way to spin Kopech’s injury in any semi-positive fashion, as it basically dashes all dreams of contending in 2019 and makes 2020 a bigger climb, too. I didn’t expect the Sox to go balls-to-the-wall for a wild card spot this winter, but the potential of Kopech and Eloy Jimenez immediately clicking at least foiled the argument for punting another offseason, especially if it put the Sox in better position for the start of the next decade.

Now it’s tougher to stick to any new-year-new-you plans, although Kopech’s trying to do what he can.

But that rings hollow. Really, the only way to present silver lining is to think about the ways it could’ve sucked worse.

No. 1: Better to lose all of 2019 than some of 2020.

I guess if you wanted to pick a time for Kopech’s UCL to give, it would’ve been in late July. That would’ve been late enough for him to prove his MLB readiness, early enough that he maybe wouldn’t have to miss all of 2019 (Arizona Fall League?), and fans wouldn’t have been teased by a couple of productive and exciting #KopechDays.

But if an offseason of rest wouldn’t have defused the time bomb in Kopech’s elbow, then the Sox are better off trying to get past it as early as possible so his availability maximizes the return on what should be the return of serious winter spending. At least the White Sox can adjust for his absence now instead of having it compromise matters after rosters are set.

No. 2: He has a big support group.

Over at The Athletic, James Fegan collected the answers for a “What I Did On My Tommy John Surgery Rehab” essay contest. Among various White Sox who have the scar from their recent past:

  • Zack Burdi played poker
  • Aaron Bummer finished his degree and gained a little velocity
  • Jace Fry revisited his mechanics to avoid a third surgery
  • Lucas Giolito improved his changeup

Everybody seems to agree that Kopech’s work ethic will help him get past this …

… but he’ll probably have to tone it down and find other ways to occupy himself until overdoing it isn’t such a risk.

No. 3: The farm system ranking is intact, I guess.

The rain delays might’ve taken care of it anyway, but now that Kopech isn’t going to eclipse 50 MLB innings this season, his rookie and prospect statuses remain intact. That’s good news for the rebuild’s talking points, even if Kopech’s injury and the suppression of Eloy Jimenez make such branding a little superficial. And even if the top 10 is good enough to secure a top-five status, it’ll come back battered:

It’s suboptimal when the attempts to turn lemons into lemonade are all superficial or speculative, but that’s where we’re at. The rebuild is still on, but with Kopech out, Dane Dunning’s status uncertain and Alec Hansen’s worrisome, a lot about the second wave is far less tangible.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I have to say, I’m a little bit surprised that the Sox haven’t gone to a six-man rotation for September. I would have thought interest in giving looks to someone like Stephens or Guerrero combined with Giolito, Lopez and Covey approaching their previous career highs in IP would have done it.


This begs a question for 2019. With Burdi, Fry, Hamilton, Burr, Fulmer, Frare, and Bummer, the Sox have a lot of young live arms with bullpen profiles. Would following Tampa Bay’s “opener” model once a turn be a useful developmental approach to next year’s staff?

They’d still need a veteran to join Rodon, Giolito, and Lopez in the rotation. What’s the best course of action for the MLB-ready talent that is physically able to play next season?

Yolmer's gatorade

With a better bullpen next year, I hope Ricky has a quicker hook with the starters. It seems like there were times Ricky tried to squeeze an extra inning out of Giolito or Lopez unnecessarily.

karkovice squad

Also, too: not his shoulder.


So Kopech will remain on the prospect list and in the farm system rankings eventhough his MLB service time clock has started? Odd. 

Also, Kopech was not topping out at 98, 99, 100 during his first major league start, was he?  Would an MRI before he jumped to the big leagues have been wise?


Here’s the rule: A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).