SOX STUNNER: KOPECH SITTING OUT 2020 SEASON
Kopech REMOVES HIMSELF FROM 2020 PLANS, MEANING SOX’ BEST HOPE IS TO SEE HIM AGAIN NEXT SPRING
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. ✶
Michael Kopech warms up before a start in Arizona during spring training.