White Sox teammates support for Michael Kopech remains strong

Short ramp up to abbreviated season, uncertainty of role among reasons Kopech opted out, sources confirm; White Sox ready to move on without right-hander

Without having heard White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech’s reasons for opting out of the 2020 season from Kopech himself, one thing has become very clear since the announcement Friday.

Kopech’s teammates and coaches are understanding, respect his decision and support him fully. James McCann, Lucas Giolito, Gio Gonzalez, Aaron Bummer, Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning, Joe McEwing, Don Cooper and general manager Rick Hahn have all expressed it under no unwavering terms.

They are also over talking about it.

“We have to focus on how to win games with who’s here,” one player said. “Everybody is looking ahead to July 24.”

That’s when the season begins against the AL Central champion Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field and it will be without Kopech, whose lights-out stuff potentially could have given the Sox, along with Giolito, a pair of young aces to better equip them for running down the division defending champs and home run kings of baseball.

“As a team and as an organization, especially us as players, we support Michael in everything he’s going through,” Giolito said after pitching four innings of one run ball in the Sox intrasquad Monday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “It’s just one of those things where he doesn’t feel comfortable being here and it’s a very strange season to begin with. He’s not the only player to opt out.

“So, it sucks not having him. But he’s going to come back strong, ready to compete next season. It is what it is. We just keep moving forward.”

While concern over Kopech’s well being, given the mystery surrounding his decision and his openly talked about issues with anxiety and depression in the past had been raised, including sincere and heartfelt sentiment from pitching coach Don Cooper, sources confirmed a report in The Athletic Monday that numerous factors weighed in Kopech’s decision to not pitch in 2020. Those included a short ramp-up period during an uncertain summer camp environment leading to an abbreviated season, complicated by the uncharted territory of recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Other factors were at play, including the uncertainty of his role on the Sox’ staff in a 60-game season for a team trying to win and the unpredictability of a season unfolding in the midst of a pandemic and how it could threaten the health of those close to him. Kopech is newly married, to actress Vanessa Morgan.

The Sox front office, led by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, was fully informed of Kopech’s concerns having taken part in numerous meetings with Kopech, sources confirmed. Manager Rick Renteria had multiple phone conversations with the pitcher leading up to Kopech’s decision.

The Sox, in announcing it Friday, expressed support for Kopech while decling to reveal his reasoning, and they say they won’t discuss Kopech’s decision until after the pitcher talks about it publicly, which they don’t expect until the season is over. Kopech doesn’t want to be a focus of attention while the team is trying to trying to win games.

The Sox just want to focus on winning without Kopech, and believe they are equipped to do so.

They wish their teammate the best and are understanding of whatever it was he agonized over coming to the decision.

“We’re in a pandemic,” left-hander Aaron Bummer said on 670-AM Saturday. “There is so much more going on in people’s lives. To speculate in my life, your life or Michael’s life, that’s an unfair thing to do. We support Michael, and all the guys who are opting out. It’s a personal choice and they have that right.”

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