GLENDALE, Ariz. — It started during the offseason and, as expected, is a talking point during the first week of spring training. The White Sox are using the disappointment of 2022 as a rallying point.
”You probably heard multiple guys in the clubhouse say we have something to prove to ourselves, to the fans, to the league,” right-hander Michael Kopech said Friday. ”We should have had a better season last year. We have the talent; we always seem to have the talent. It’s a matter of coming together and doing the little things right.”
Limited to 25 starts and 119 1/3 innings because of knee and shoulder problems in his first full season as a starter in 2022, Kopech — who will turn 27 in April — wants to prove he can stay healthy and make 30-plus starts in the middle of the rotation. He had a 3.54 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 57 walks in 2022.
Kopech ended the season on the injured list with shoulder inflammation and had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
”The knee’s feeling better, the shoulder’s feeling better,” Kopech said. ”But it’s just kind of smoothing things out and getting back to 100%.”
Manager Pedro Grifol said Kopech ”is right on pace” to be ready at the start of the season, but he most likely won’t pitch until the second series after the Sox open in Houston. That means a potential start in the home opener April 3 against the Giants.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal battled leg injuries, appeared in only 99 games and batted .202/.301/.269 with five home runs last season. He also struggled defensively.
But Grifol opened his post-workout media session talking about how good Grandal looked throwing to second base.
”He’s healthy,” Grifol said.
The biggest thing for Grandal, who went through an intense offseason training regimen, is his ability to work with healthier legs.
”His work capacity is really high,” Grifol said. ”Before, his work capacity wasn’t as high; you couldn’t rep him out the way we’re repping him out now. . . . That means the work in the offseason was really good and his body is allowing him to work at a high level for a longer period of time.”
Grifol said he will play Grandal’s workload by ear. He expects him to catch a lot in Cactus League games and in as many games as possible in the regular season.
”I really haven’t thought about him as a DH,” Grifol said. ”That doesn’t mean that he’s not gonna. He’s our catcher. And we want him to catch.”
Robert MVP material, Grifol says
Center fielder Luis Robert also dealt with injuries in 2022 and was limited to 98 games.
If Robert even approaches 150 games, Grifol said: ”This guy has an opportunity to win an MVP. If he puts it all together, it’s special. We’ve all seen the power, we’ve seen the speed, we’ve seen the way he runs out there in center field, how he plays defense and steals bases. There’s really nothing he can’t do on a baseball field. We just have to keep him on the field.”