Desert Deets: Kopech, Vaughn and ’21 Expectations

Desert Deets is a daily curation of the latest news and happenings coming out of Camelback Ranch with commentary. 

White Sox pitchers and catchers are back to work in Glendale, Arizona as they prepare for a season that Rick Hahn said on Wednesday would be a failure if it ended in anything other than a World Series Championship for the Chicago White Sox this fall.

“As we sit here today, the goal is to win a World Series championship,” Hahn said. “So if we fall short of that, it would be a disappointment.

“Of all days, especially on the first day of camp, not to mention what we’ve all been through for the last several years preparing to get to this point, I think having championship aspirations is to be expected and, to a man, what people want.”

The general manager of the club made it crystal clear on day one that it’s World Series or bust on the Southside this season, leaving no doubt that the rebuild is officially over. In my Spring Training preview this morning I tabbed the plans for Michael Kopech and Andrew Vaughn as two of my five storylines to pay attention to this Spring, and on day one of camp Rick Hahn provided some details into the early plans for both Kopech and Vaughn.

Creativity with Kopech

After missing the last two seasons in full the plan for Michael Kopech was clearly going to involve some sort of limitations to prevent a repeat injury, and while Rick Hahn didn’t go into exact details regarding their plans for Kopech in 2021, he did share some insight with the media on day one.

“Of all days, especially on the first day of camp, not to mention what we’ve all been through for the last several years preparing to get to this point, I think having championship aspirations is to be expected and, to a man, what people want.

“So we have to be a little bit creative about how we’re going to use him in order to get him helping us in Chicago and continuing his development and finishing the year strong and able to contribute, ideally, to a World Series championship.”

It sounds like a slow ramp-up that will include Kopech starting with Triple-A Charlotte will be in the cards, something that was almost a foregone conclusion at this point, but it also sounds like they’ll be using Kopech in a non-traditional role this season.

With the Opening Day rotation expected to feature the combination of Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel, and Dylan Cease in the one through four spots, and either Carlos Rodon or Reynaldo Lopez at the back-end, there’s no pressure to make Kopech a rotation mainstay just yet. We could see Kopech join the team and work in a combination role making spot starts or even semi-regular starts, while also working out of the bullpen.

The plan is to feature Kopech as a starting pitcher long-term, but that might be something we don’t see in a traditional sense until 2022.

Opening Day for Vaughn?

Many have predicted that Andrew Vaughn will, like Michael Kopech, join the big league club shortly after Opening Day as the White Sox play the service time game, but I’ve said that I feel that he might make the Opening Day roster since the team is vocally in a World Series or bust mentality. Rick Hahn confirmed that’s a possibility this morning.

“Andrew Vaughn is very much in the mix to make this club,” Hahn said Wednesday. “I know that may strike some people as a little non-traditional, given that he has not had ABs over the course of his career just yet.

“I think that a lot of things would have been different had there been a minor league season last year. But I think one of the most prominent things is, had there been a season last year, I don’t think there would have been any question in anyone’s mind that Andrew Vaughn was prepared to contribute at the big league level over the course of the 2021 season.

“So based on what we’ve seen and known of the kid, he’s very much in this mix, and we’ll see what the next six weeks hold. But everyone here who knows Andrew and knows what he’s capable of doing is taking his bid for this club seriously.”

Other Bullets

  • Rick Hahn announced that left-handed reliever Jace Fry will miss the start of the season after undergoing a microdiscectomy. Hahn said that the club hopes to have Fry back by May 1.
  • New White Sox skipper Tony La Russa will wear No. 22 this season. La Russa has worn No. 10 his entire managerial career, but that number is owned by Yoan Moncada on this roster.
  • Rick Hahn confirmed that Garrett Crochet will break camp with the major league team and work out of the bullpen in 2021.
  • Newly minted closer Liam Hendriks donned his White Sox digs for the first time on Wednesday afternoon and got in some work in the bullpen area.

Featured Photo: The Chicago Dugout / Chicago White Sox via Twitter


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