SOX REOPEN WITHOUT KOPECH
Personal matter keeps hard-throwing right-hander away from team on first day of summer workouts
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.’’
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. ✶
Right-hander Michael Kopech wasn’t with the Sox for the start of workouts Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Sox shortstop Tim Anderson led the majors with a .335 batting average last season, but he also committed a major-league-leading 26 errors.