Michael Kopech has knee surgery after months of gritting through it

Michael Kopech felt a pop in his right knee back on June 12.

On Aug. 23, he went on the injured list for the first time all season with a strain in his other knee.

On Sept. 17, he went back on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation.

Ten days later, the White Sox shut him down for the season, but it seemed less about his shoulder and more about his right knee, which Rick Hahn said had a baker’s cyst in need of remediation at some point over the offseason.

And on Friday, the White Sox announced that Kopech had knee surgery, and multiple White Sox reporters confirmed from multiple sources that it was for a meniscus tear.

Kopech’s knee was one of many long-running injuries the White Sox downplayed or pretended to not notice over the course of the 2022 season, along with Tim Anderson’s groin, Luis Robert’s wrist, Leury García’s calf, among others.

The difference with Kopech is that he was reasonably productive in his lesser state. The peripherals after the June knee incident are troubling …

  • Before: 51.2 IP, 24 BB, 51 K, 2 HR
  • After: 67.2 IP, 33 BB, 54 K, 13 HR

… but his 4.79 ERA over that latter sample, while unimpressive, remained playable in a White Sox rotation that couldn’t really afford to call on Davis Martin or Vince Velasquez more than it did.

Were Kopech an outlier for a team that otherwise responded with conviction to compromised performances on the roster, you could see the worth in pushing him through the discomfort. He entered the year with just 84 MLB innings under his belt despite debuting all the way back in 2018, thanks to Tommy John surgery, his opting out of the 2020 season, and a hamstring strain that cost him all of June in 2021.

In this world where his injury were the only one handled without urgency, it still would’ve been uncomfortable seeing him suffer cascade injuries he didn’t exactly deny

“It’s hard to say,” Kopech said. “People compensate in different ways. Maybe I have, but if so, I haven’t noticed.”

… but with him turning 27 and entering his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2023, there’d be something to learn by putting him through the paces, even if that lesson was “We really shouldn’t have put him through those paces.” The White Sox gained more from a bumpy 120-inning Kopech season than they would have from a sterling 60-inning Kopech season. Whatever starting pitching shortcomings the White Sox faced mostly stem from Lucas Giolito’s malaise. The Sox would just have to hope that Kopech didn’t suffer any longer-term damage, but given Kopech’s track record, any subsequent injuries might be fresh and inevitable setbacks, rather than consequences from this year’s choices.

However, with Kopech’s roundabout path toward a surgery coming after the Sox had dragged their feet on confronting so many other injuries, it’s hard to separate calculated risk-taking from the leadership vacuum that enabled the 2022 season to suck as much as it did.

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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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MrStealYoBase

An MRI would have shown the tear all the way back in June. Which makes the decision to not IL him pretty bewildering. If he gets surgery back then, he’s likely out 6 weeks, another couple for rehab, you have him back in early to mid august at 100%. Still time to get over 100 innings.

Qubort

I disagree. A meniscus tear can vary greatly. If it’s small, it may cause nearly zero discomfort. Bigger could cause a long rehab stint. Without actually seeing his MRI AND being a trained surgeon, we’re in the weeds on what his time table would have been and what HE wanted to do.

I’ve torn my meniscus in both knees at different times and I can completely understand why an athletic 27 year old would hold off until after the season to get it cleaned up.

MrStealYoBase

I played 4 years of college rugby on a torn meniscus before getting it repaired. I get the “it’s fine until it’s not” attitude. But he was honking around and was having clear problems from his next start going forward. I don’t think it was in the “zero discomfort” regime.

asinwreck

The organization’s pattern of irresponsibility regarding player health makes me wonder how reluctant players around MLB would be to join the White Sox.

ForsterFTOG

Just add it to the others on the list.

GrinnellSteve

Reports that Tony is announcing his retirement tomorrow!

chipporter

But that he’s staying on as special advisor.

GrinnellSteve

I’m hoping it’s a ceremonial face-saving position. If he exerts any real influence, that will be bad. Still, I’m going to savor this announcement. I’m grateful the will-he-won’t-he question won’t linger and hold the franchise hostage.

steelydan52

I’m sure you all saw a small sampling of names to replace TLR in yesterday’s Sun Times. Most of the names have been bandied about in here but one caught me off guard. Chris Getz. I’m hoping the writer of the article was just speculating. I’m praying he was.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Bruce Levine starting mentioning his name earlier in the summer. I don’t know if this is all Bruce or if someone put that in his ear.

steelydan52

Ok. I haven’t listened to Levine all summer so I didn’t know that.
Sox really need to move on from this whole coaching staff if not the FO. Mully and Haugh will be good listening this week!