(670 The Score) As they prepare for competition at the back end of their starting rotation in spring training, the White Sox are keeping an open mind.
And while that means establishing a traditional five-man rotation, that could also include the possibility of using an opener at various points through the season. Left-hander Garrett Crochet and right-hander Michael Kopech are two hard-throwing youngsters whom the White Sox could use in creative ways, including as openers, a term used for relievers who start a game for matchup reasons but don't go nearly as deep into the game as a usual starting pitcher.
“We will be flexible over the course of the year how we're going to use these guys,” general manager Rick Hahn said. "It would be foolhardy to say Michael Kopech will be getting the ball over the next 12 days to start the season. You have to be open-minded and flexible as to how to deploy these guys. That includes from a health standpoint, from a stamina standpoint as well as matchup and developmental standpoint. When we leave here (spring training) and everything goes smoothly, we should have five starters in their spots. That doesn't mean over the course of the season if we have a doubleheader or makeup a rainout we would not use an opener.”
Hahn expanded on his openness about using an opener.
"I guess that term has a hot-button response,” Hahn said. "Like launch angle, I guess a taboo word, but call it whatever you want. We are going to be flexible and creative about things in order to win ballgames.”
Crochet, 21, will likely be used out of the bullpen to open the season, though the White Sox fully intend for him to be a starting pitcher in the long term. A first-round pick of the White Sox last summer, Crochet was really impressive after debuting late in the season, throwing six scoreless innings in five regular-season appearances while striking out eight and walking none.
"Crochet obviously doesn't have much pro experience, and we want him to contribute to important innings all the way through the month of October,” Hahn said. “The information has been shared on Crochet, and we are going to use him out of the pen come the start of the season.”
Kopech, 24, hasn’t pitched in a regular-season MLB game since Sept. 5, 2018, after which he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2019. Kopech, 24, then opted out of playing in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
The White Sox also want Kopech to be a starter long term but want him to gradually ramp up his workload. And with the possibility that the minor league season may not start until May, using Kopech out of the big league bullpen early on could be the best answer, as they can manage his innings and get him work in a highly competitive setting that way.
“We view both having the potential to be long-term premium starters,” Hahn said.
"We want to have multiple options with them. With the pandemic still coming into play, we are going to see how things develop. We are certainly looking at Crochet as a multiple-inning weapon down there. Long term, we are trying to balance a little bit of this premium talent.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.