REGROUPING AF­TER KOPECH’S BOMBSHELL

Af­ter surg­eries, Lam­bert, Dun­ning im­press on mound

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @CST_­sox­van

On the day af­ter it was an­nounced that Michael Kopech would not be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2020 short­ened sea­son, an­other right-handed pitch­ing prospect soft­ened the blow.

A day later, an­other one ap­plied some more salve — and en­cour­age­ment.

Jimmy Lam­bert, who, like Kopech, is com­ing back from Tommy John surgery, looked fully re­cov­ered, strik­ing out five in two in­nings in the White Sox’ in­trasquad game Saturday at Guar­an­teed Rate Field. On Sun­day, an­other Tommy John re­cov­eree, Dane Dun­ning, pitched three score­less in­nings against the Sox’ top lineup.

Who needs Kopech?

The Sox might have had a for­mi­da­ble ro­ta­tion with Kopech, so, yes, let’s say they do. But it’s not like there’s noth­ing left in the tal­ent sup­ply from the farm system. No­mar Mazara home­red against Lam­bert — af­ter he struck out Eloy Jimenez and Yas­mani Gran­dal — but that didn’t dampen pitch­ing coach Don Cooper’s praise.

“Best I’ve seen [Lam­bert] up close,” Cooper said. “I’m happy to see it be­cause I know now we’ve got an­other guy. He’s real. Com­ing back from an in­jury, but I know as he maxes out on the com­mand with his God-given stuff, he’s go­ing to be an­other pitcher for us.”

Lam­bert, 25, has been touch­ing 95 mph in camp and has a good four-pitch mix. It’s as though he’s say­ing the Sox have more on the prospect cup­board where Kopech comes from.

“Out­stand­ing changeup, good fast­ball, knows how to spin the curve and slider,” Cooper said. “Did a re­ally nice job in his two in­nings.”

Dun­ning, who’s also 25, shook off some first-in­ning nerves — it was his first “game” in two years, so this was a big mo­ment for him — and al­lowed two hits and a walk and struck out Danny Men­dick.

“Def­i­nitely a con­fi­dence-booster,” Dun­ning said. “All my pitches were play­ing re­ally well.

“My biggest goal is to de­but this year. Hope­fully I can be a part of the team.”

Cooper said Lam­bert and Dun­ning were overly amped up in re­cent live bat­ting-prac­tice ses­sions.

“Their en­ergy got the best of them,” Cooper said. “They re­ally wanted to show, ‘Hey, look at me. I can do this.’ We al­ready kind of know what they can do. Their en­ergy got the best of them, and they were think­ing more about stuff than lo­cat­ing that stuff. We talked about it. You have to con­trol that en­ergy, bring it to the glove, and if you do, it will take you to heights you’ve never seen.”

A fifth-round draft choice in 2016, Lam­bert had a 2.94 ERA with 39 strike­outs in 33⅔ in­nings in his first six starts at Class AA Birm­ing­ham last sea­son be­fore el­bow sore­ness set in. He had surgery in June. Dun­ning had a 2.76 ERA at Birm­ing­ham in 2018.

How Lam­bert and Dun­ning fit in the Sox’ plans for 2020 is some­thing to be fig­ured out. The Sox have six starters — Lu­cas Gi­olito, Dal­las Keuchel, Car­los Rodon, Rey­naldo Lopez, Dy­lan Cease and Gio Gon­za­lez — to work with al­ready. The sea­son starts in 12 days.

“We’re go­ing to have to make de­ci­sions on how we uti­lize peo­ple, but we’re not there yet be­cause we’re too busy fo­cus­ing on what we have to do to­day,” Cooper said. “Later, we’ll have a lot of dis­cus­sions about the team, how many and who we’re tak­ing and some strat­egy meet­ings, for sure, on how we’re go­ing to ap­proach it.”

Gon­za­lez, 34, said Kopech was a big loss, but he loves the mix of vet­er­ans, young pitch­ers and prospects.

“We have some young guys fill­ing in the spots,” he said. “Mike is huge for this or­ga­ni­za­tion and huge for the club­house. His de­ci­sion, and we re­spect it 100 per­cent. I wish I would have had an op­por­tu­nity to play with him, but . . . we have to fo­cus on peo­ple who are here, and af­ter watch­ing Dun­ning pitch and some of the guys com­ing in and show­ing their stuff, it is ex­cit­ing to see guys step­ping up and do­ing their part to be rec­og­nized and earn their spot.”

GRE­GORY BULL, MARK BLACK (IN­SET)/AP

White Sox right-han­ders Dane Dun­ning and Jimmy Lam­bert (in­set) showed their stuff in week­end in­trasquad games.

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