SOX STUN­NER: KOPECH SIT­TING OUT 2020 SEA­SON

Kopech RE­MOVES HIM­SELF FROM 2020 PLANS, MEAN­ING SOX’ BEST HOPE IS TO SEE HIM AGAIN NEXT SPRING

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN | dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @cst_­sox­van

Prized prospect Michael Kopech won’t pitch for the White Sox this sea­son, the team an­nounced Fri­day.

The Sox weren’t forth­com­ing about the rea­son why, say­ing only it’s a per­sonal mat­ter for the 23-year-old right-han­der.

“Michael Kopech has in­formed us of his de­ci­sion to not par­tic­i­pate in the 2020 sea­son,” gen­eral man­ager Rick Hahn said in a state­ment. “We rec­og­nize that reach­ing this de­ci­sion is in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult for any com­pet­i­tive ath­lete, and our or­ga­ni­za­tion is un­der­stand­ing and sup­port­ive. We will work with Michael to as­sure his devel­op­ment con­tin­ues through­out 2020, and we look for­ward to wel­com­ing him back into our club­house for the 2021 sea­son.”

Hahn had an­nounced on the first day of camp that Kopech was ab­sent be­cause of a per­sonal mat­ter, and on Fri­day, a Sox spokesman said Kopech’s de­ci­sion was re­lated to those same rea­sons.

As the first week of camp passed with­out him in Chicago, it be­came ap­par­ent he would not be­gin the ab­bre­vi­ated 60-game sea­son with the team, and there were grow­ing con­cerns it could be longer.

Kopech has not been heard from pub­licly, so it’s not known whether his de­ci­sion is re­lated to coro­n­avirus fears. He has been in con­tact with the Sox’ front of­fice, but sources say he hasn’t re­sponded to team­mates try­ing to reach him.

On the mend from Tommy John surgery, Kopech ap­peared to be back at full strength when he touched 100 mph on sev­eral pitches in his only spring-train­ing out­ing against the Rangers in March. That was his last per­for­mance in pub­lic, although he con­tin­ued to throw in Ari­zona af­ter base­ball’s shut­down be­cause of the coro­n­avirus.

To al­le­vi­ate fears about there be­ing a phys­i­cal is­sue, Hahn em­pha­sized Fri­day that Kopech was 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 [all] 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 to say 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.”

Kopech has been open about past strug­gles with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and learn­ing to deal with them. Dur­ing spring train­ing, he said he was in a good place emo­tion­ally and was hap­pily cel­e­brat­ing his Jan. 4 mar­riage to ac­tress Vanessa Mor­gan.

Con­sid­er­ing how he was throw­ing dur­ing the spring, his ad­di­tion to a ro­ta­tion mix of Lu­cas Gi­olito, Dal­las Keuchel, Rey­naldo Lopez, Car­los Rodon, Dy­lan Cease and Gio Gon­za­lez could have been a sig­nif­i­cant boost for a team with as­pi­ra­tions of con­tend­ing for the post­sea­son.

Kopech, the Sox’ No. 3 prospect and the No. 20 prospect in base­ball, ac­cord­ing to MLB Pipe­line, was ac­quired with Yoan Mon­cada and Luis Basabe from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade in 2016. He pitched in four games last sea­son, post­ing a 5.02 ERA — a num­ber likely re­lated to pain in his el­bow. ✶

JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES

Michael Kopech warms up be­fore a start in Ari­zona dur­ing spring train­ing.

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