SOX RE­OPEN WITHOUT KOPECH

Per­sonal mat­ter keeps hard-throw­ing right-han­der away from team on first day of sum­mer work­outs

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOX BEAT - BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN | dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @cst_­sox­van

As White Sox gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said, sum­ma­riz­ing for any­one who has missed base­ball these last few months, it was good to see play­ers on a field again, do­ing things play­ers do.

One was miss­ing from the Sox, how­ever, and it was a big name at that: right-han­der Michael Kopech. That took some of the starch out of the Sox’ first work­out Fri­day in prepa­ra­tion for an ab­bre­vi­ated 60-game sea­son.

The rea­son was a per­sonal mat­ter, and with no time­line for his re­turn, it had the look of an ab­sence that could keep Kopech, a 24-year-old who touched 100 mph nu­mer­ous times in his one spring-train­ing in­ning in March, out for a while.

An ex­tended ab­sence would be un­for­tu­nate for Kopech and a Sox pitch­ing staff that had been stack­ing up as a po­ten­tial strength, with seven or eight pos­si­ble starters.

‘‘I do not have a time­line for his re­turn, and given the per­sonal na­ture of the mat­ter he’s tend­ing to, I won’t pro­vide up­dates un­til we know the ac­tual plan for Michael go­ing for­ward,’’ Hahn said on a Zoom call be­tween the morn­ing and af­ter­noon work­outs Fri­day at Guar­an­teed Rate Field.

To al­le­vi­ate fears of a phys­i­cal is­sue amid the coron­avirus pan­demic, Hahn em­pha­sized Kopech, who has re­cov­ered from Tommy John surgery, is healthy.

‘‘It’s never ideal when any in­di­vid­ual is deal­ing with off-field mat­ters,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘It’s easy to lose sight of the fact you’re deal­ing with hu­man be­ings who have lives, fam­i­lies and the same as­sort­ment of items to at­tend to that peo­ple have. This is ob­vi­ously a very unique time we’re all liv­ing through.

‘‘I’m not go­ing to get more spe­cific than that, other than we fully sup­port Michael and are go­ing to pro­vide him what­ever time and re­sources he needs and look for­ward to see­ing him in the fu­ture.’’

The se­ri­ous­ness of the is­sue will be open to spec­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially be­cause Kopech freely has dis­cussed anx­i­ety is­sues in the past and suc­cess­fully worked his way through them. The only cer­tainty is that Kopech’s team­mates and Sox man­age­ment care about him as a per­son first and fore­most.

The Sox held morn­ing work­outs with half their squad and af­ter­noon work­outs with the other half. The sight of masked media, who were al­lowed in only for the morn­ing ses­sion, tak­ing photos from the 100 level of seats — seats that likely will be empty when games be­gin in late July — was a pic­ture of the cur­rent sports land­scape. Fa­vorite photo sub­jects in­cluded right-han­ders Lu­cas Gi­olito and Dy­lan Cease and prospect Jimmy Lam­bert, one of sev­eral Sox pitch­ers ready to roll af­ter re­cov­er­ing from Tommy John surgery.

In the con­text of not hav­ing Kopech up and run­ning, Hahn re­minded media of the Sox’ ob­jec­tive: While be­ing built to be a con­tender this sea­son, it’s more about the years that follow.

‘‘What­ever hap­pens to­mor­row or over the next two or three months into Oc­to­ber, what­ever we’ve tried to do here was never about one spe­cific sea­son,’’ Hahn said.

‘‘So any hic­cups we have along the way in 2020, which are go­ing to be inevitable, given the time that we’re all ex­pe­ri­enc­ing right now, is some­thing that we’re go­ing to be flex­i­ble and deal with and hope­fully get through flaw­lessly.’’

That said, the Sox have ‘‘come to­gether as grown men’’ in 2020, short­stop Tim An­der­son said, and are think­ing about the play­offs now. This is how you talk on the first day of spring train­ing — or, in this case, sum­mer camp.

‘‘Any­thing is pos­si­ble in 60 games,’’ An­der­son said. ‘‘You’ve seen the lineup. From top to bot­tom, you know the names. It’s there. All we’ve got to do is go out and play hard ev­ery day and pick one an­other up and take off run­ning when it’s time to go.’’ ✶

White Sox man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria fixed his eyes on his short­stop on the first day of sum­mer camp Fri­day and liked what he saw.

‘‘This young man is — he’s a man,’’ Ren­te­ria said of Tim An­der­son. ‘‘He’s grown so much as a per­son, as a player. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what’s next for him.’’

Part of An­der­son’s ma­tu­rity is know­ing his strengths and weak­nesses. He led the ma­jors in bat­ting av­er­age (.335) and er­rors (26) last sea­son. Plenty has been said about both.

‘‘That’s a part of my game that’s def­i­nitely lack­ing,’’ An­der­son, 27, said of his de­fense af­ter work­ing out at the Sox’ first ses­sion of the sum­mer at Guar­an­teed Rate Field. ‘‘It ain’t too far be­hind, though; it ain’t too far be­hind. I’m get­ting to where I need to be.’’

An­der­son’s range and quick­ness are bet­ter than those of many of his peers, but his mis­takes on rou­tine plays have held him back de­fen­sively. Clean­ing those up will be a point of em­pha­sis in 2020.

‘‘I’ll con­tinue to work, I’ll con­tinue to get bet­ter,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m go­ing to con­tinue to learn the game. Each and ev­ery day, come to the ball­park ready. As I ma­ture and as I grow, it’s go­ing to get bet­ter. You’ll see.’’

Ren­te­ria praised An­der­son’s work ethic. ‘‘I still be­lieve that this kid’s an All-Star­qual­ity type of short­stop,’’ said Ren­te­ria, a for­mer in­fielder. ‘‘When I see him work­ing, I see some things that he does . . . I’m im­pressed. I ex­pect a lot out of Timmy. More im­por­tant, Timmy ex­pects a lot out of him­self. I know he wants per­fec­tion, and he’s grow­ing to­ward that.

‘‘He’s go­ing to be around for a while.’’

Test­ing, test­ing

Gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said the Sox would re­veal how many tests for the coron­avirus were ad­min­is­tered and how many were pos­i­tive when their in­take process is com­plete in the next day or two.

Re­sults re­leased Fri­day by Ma­jor League Base­ball were not bad: Thirty-one play­ers and seven staff mem­bers tested pos­i­tive out of 3,185 tests (1.2 per­cent).

Hahn said he has been ‘‘re­ally pleased’’ with what head trainer Brian Ball has told him about how things are pro­gress­ing in the Sox’ realm.

The virus and the threat it poses are front and cen­ter at this camp. On a Zoom con­fer­ence call, Ren­te­ria wore his mask and had these part­ing words: ‘‘Wear your mask, for good­ness sake.’’

Ren­te­ria and Sox coaches wore masks on the field.

This and that

Hahn didn’t say which teams the Sox will play in the three al­lot­ted ex­hi­bi­tions at the end of camp — the Cubs and Brew­ers are good bets be­cause of their prox­im­ity — but they will start play­ing in­trasquad games early next week.

◆ Ch­es­lor Cuth­bert was ab­sent be­cause of travel dif­fi­culty from Nicaragua, and the in­fielder won’t be in Chicago un­til Thurs­day or Fri­day.

◆ An­der­son teamed with Mayor Lori Light­foot on a pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment about gun vi­o­lence for the Fourth of July week­end.

‘‘It’s on all of us to keep our com­mu­nity safe,’’ An­der­son said. ‘‘Say no to vi­o­lence.’’

◆ Sight seen: Play­ers prac­tic­ing mock cel­e­bra­tions without high-fives and body con­tact, in ac­cor­dance with coron­avirus guide­lines. ✶

GETTY IMAGES

Right-han­der Michael Kopech wasn’t with the Sox for the start of work­outs Fri­day at Guar­an­teed Rate Field.

Rick Hahn

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

Sox short­stop Tim An­der­son led the ma­jors with a .335 bat­ting av­er­age last sea­son, but he also com­mit­ted a ma­jor-league-lead­ing 26 er­rors.

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