CHICAGO – There’s a reason the White Sox brought up top pitching prospect Michael Kopech from Triple-A Charlotte late this season while leaving top outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez off the roster for more “development.”
When he does join the White Sox in April, odds are favorable Jimenez is going to be a force with the bat.
Pitchers are different.
“You’re seeing with this promotion here, from a baseball standpoint, we felt like it made the most sense to get Michael here, build off that innings base, make his debut in his age-22 season and head into this offseason with a clear focus and understanding of exactly what it takes to get big-league hitters out,” general manager Rick Hahn said.
“From a development standpoint, we felt that this was in the best interest of Michael to put him in the ideal position to reach that ceiling of his. Each individual player is similarly judged based upon what is best for them as an individual.”
Letting Kopech pitch against the best hitters in the game and evaluating his considerable skills were the Sox’s goals when they brought up the right-hander up on Aug. 21, but there have been some outside factors.
Mainly, the rain.
Kopech’s first two home starts were abbreviated because of rain delays, and the skies opened again in Wednesday night’s outing against the Detroit Tigers at Guaranteed Rate Field. This time, Kopech was able to come back out after the first of two delays came in the bottom of the second inning and was limited to 28 minutes.
But the prized pitching prospect lacked his big fastball before and after the bad weather hit, and Kopech was tagged for seven runs on nine hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings. Detroit defeated the Sox, 10-2.
In the fourth, Kopech was rocked by five straight hits to open the inning, three of them home runs. His ERA jumped from 0.82 to 5.02.
Kopech didn’t blame a third straight rain delay at home for his struggles.
“Obviously, I didn’t have my best stuff, and I wasn’t locating, either,” he said.
A fastball that regularly reaches 97 to 98 mph was stuck at 93 for most of the night, forcing Kopech to go with a steady mix of offspeed pitches after the rain delay.
“I was pitching like I was throwing 100, but I was throwing 93, 94,” Kopech said. “You can’t miss your spots with that velocity. I felt fine. I didn’t pitch well, that’s the gist of it.”