Michael Kopech Holds High Expectations For 2020

The White Sox carry a "different energy" nowadays, Kopech says.

Bruce Levine
January 22, 2020 - 5:11 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech was in a grateful mood Wednesday.

At an event to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities and White Sox Charities, Kopech had his long hair shorn off to raise money and awareness for cancer research. 

"This is much bigger than I am," Kopech said. "These kids have had a huge impact on me. All this is much bigger than me and playing baseball. I just want to contribute what I can."

The 23-year-old Kopech was also thankful for his own physical health, as he's back at full strength after a long rehab process following Tommy John surgery back in August 2018. That procedure caused him to miss the entire 2019 season, during which he spent a lot of time reflecting.

"The time away has made me really appreciate the things I have been given," Kopech said. "It made me do some reflecting on how privileged I actually am. The story of my last year is finding a balance of trying to get all the way back -- what is too much, what is too little of trying to get back, how to contribute to the team and organization without actually being there. That is what is most important.

"Physically, I am in the best place since I was drafted. Mentally, I am stable, confident and prepared. I have done the work to get back on the mound. Mentally, I can handle anything that will come my way. My only real mental skills coach is God. I have turned that leaf over this year and turned things over to something greater than I am."

Even with Kopech feeling good, the White Sox are expected to slow roll his workload a bit in spring training and early in the season. The White Sox would do so because Kopech hasn't logged more than 140 2/3 innings in a season in his career, and they want him to remain fresh late in a campaign in which they hope to contend. 

Once Kopech is in the White Sox's rotation for good, he expects to take the ball every fifth day. And does he expect rust when he gets back on the mound in Cactus League action this spring?

"Time will tell," Kopech said. "Toward the end of last season, I got to compete in a few games during the instructional ball. Hopefully this spring I will be able to shake off any rust I have."

Kopech is renowned for his big velocity, but while he said he can still hit 103 miles per hour on the radar gun, he doesn't intend to.

"I don't know if I will be that true power pitcher any longer in my career," Kopech said. "I think I will be smarter how I pitch, but velocity will always be a part of my game."

Kopech is enthused by the increased expectations for the White Sox, who added All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal, left-hander Dallas Keuchel, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and others this offseason.

They're thinking playoffs, Kopech said.

"That is what we have put on ourselves as well," Kopech said. "We are going to want to be a competitive team at the highest level. That means going to the playoffs, and we are going to try and achieve that

"We as a group in Arizona were talking about different energy we have right now. We feel we all are going to be pulling in the same direction -- not that we didn't have expectations before, but more of a common bond."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.