The White Sox made a roster move Thursday, optioning promising starting pitcher Michael Kopech to Trople-A Charlotte.
Don’t read too much into it.
Even if this would have been a normal season, which has been paused by the coronavirus pandemic, Kopech was a near lock to open the year at Charlotte.
“He’s been down a little bit,” manager Rick Renteria said in mid-February when the Sox were seemingly easing into a regular training camp. “We’ve got to get him back out there and let him compete and let him find his way.”
Kopech made his major league debut with the White Sox on Aug. 21, 2018.
A key acquisition for the Sox in the 2016 trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston, Kopech flashed his 100-mph fastball from the outset and had 15 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings over four starts before going down with an elbow injury.
Tommy John surgery sidelined the right-hander for the entire 2019 season, and Kopech was aware he was likely going to Triple-A when he reported to Camelback Ranch last month in Phoenix.
“Obviously, I would have loved to pitch last season,” Kopech said. “It kind of [stinks] to take that entire year off. But last season was a big learning curve for me. For the timing of it to bring me back this spring and kind of get to ramp up with everybody before season starts, I think that works out perfect for me.
“I don’t get thrown right back into the fire, but I think this is a good prep phase for me.”
The preparation will continue at Charlotte, and that’s no knock on Kopech.
Considering his last major league start was Sept. 5, 2018, there was no way the Sox were going to insert the 23-year-old pitcher right back into the major league rotation.
A lot of rust has built up, and Kopech figures to make multiple starts in the minor leagues before he returns to the Sox.
When the regular season does start, the Sox will have Lucas Giolito, newcomers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez, Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation.
Kopech will be waiting in the wings, and there should still be plenty of time on the schedule for him to make a big impact.
Earlier this month, BetOnline ranked Kopech as the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year honors this year, ahead of the Tigers’ Casey Mize, new Sox center fielder Luis Robert, the Athletics’ Jesus Luzardo and the Angels’ Jo Adell.