Saturday (Tuesday) Stew: The Return of Kopech and the Emergence of Yermín Mercedes

So, I’m few days late penning the Saturday Stew as a result of feeling some side effects of my COVID-19 vaccine that I received on Friday afternoon. For what it’s worth, Saturday morning I woke up with a fever and some fatigue, muscle soreness. Nothing a little DayQuil didn’t solve, but nonetheless, I didn’t have the motivation to write.

Anyways, this story is probably better suited for this evening since we’ve had some time — and a victory — to get over what turned out to be a pretty lackluster performance from the White Sox to open the season this past weekend.

To say that the White Sox played a sloppy series against the Angels, would be, an understatement. The series was bordering downright ugly at times as the Pale Hose committed five errors that led to a total of seven unearned runs for the Angels over the four-game series in Los Angeles.

If you checked the pulse of the fans on Twitter, you would have thought that the White Sox were 1-30 instead of 1-3. Look, every game matters when you’re a club with October aspirations, but it’s April 6, so let’s apply a dose of much-needed context to the discussion.

It’s Early

It’s a long season and the cream will rise to the top. Despite a pretty frustrating opening weekend, the White Sox played a near-perfect ballgame in Seattle on Monday night, blanking the Mariners en route to their second victory. Carlos Rodon reminded everyone why he was taken in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft by holding the M’s to zero runs on two hits while striking out nine over the course of five innings.

‘Los looked like a healthy, competent pitcher on Monday night. If he can continue this trend, the White Sox rotational depth will be just fine. Michael Kopech and Jose Ruiz were stellar in relief of Rodon, posting four scoreless innings of work, and the offense continued to clobber left-handed pitching as they did the entire season in 2020.

The White Sox are going up against another southpaw tonight — albeit a better one — in James Paxton, so if they can continue to mash, they’ll be right back at .500 with, *checks notes*, a mere 156 games to play this season. I think they’ll be just fine.

Welcome to the Show, Yermín

There were however bright spots for the White Sox in the early days of the season, but none brighter than Yermin Mercedes. Mercedes, 28, spent the last decade playing minor league and indy ball after making his professional debut for the Washington Nationals’ rookie club at 18-years-old in 2011.

Mercedes burst onto the scene on Saturday night with a 5-5 performance against the Angels and has followed that up with seven more hits in his last 13 at-bats since then, including a home run, three doubles, and six RBI.

Photo: Getty Images

Mercedes has pretty much always hit in the minors, but there were always question marks about how it would translate to the major league level. There were also questions about where Mercedes would play at this level. He’s a catcher by trade, but he’s not even the second-best defensive catcher on this White Sox roster. There’s the DH spot, but that’s about it for Mercedes.

The Nationals and Orioles allowed Mercedes to escape their organizations, and the White Sox are now the beneficiaries.

“We were certainly aware of some of the question marks around Yermin when we took him in [the] Rule 5,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn. “Frankly, those past concerns just make me more impressed with the work our player development staff — particularly, Doug Sisson, John Orton, and Guillermo Quiroz — put in to help get Yermin to this place. To a man, they only judged him on the work and commitment he showed while with us, which has been excellent.”

Will Mercedes be able to continue his early tear over the course of the entire 2021 season? That remains to be seen, but for now, his story is both of the feel-good and timely variety for the White Sox.

Welcome back, Michael

Michael Kopech, who missed over 900 days while he recovered from a UCL injury suffered shortly after his big league debut in August of 2018 and sat out the 2020 season due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, is back — and in a big way early on.

Photo: Chicago White Sox via Twitter

Kopech made his return to the mound on Friday night, his first regular-season appearance since September 5, 2018, and secured a victory for the White Sox after tossing a pair of hitless innings that included three strikeouts against the Angels.

Kopech followed up that effort on Monday night with another strong two innings of work against the Mariners. Kopech allowed no runs and just two baserunners (one hit, one walk), while striking out five Seattle hitters. I laughed at people this winter who suggested trading Kopech. I laughed at people last summer who mocked him for opting out of the 2020 season. This is why.

Michael Kopech is an animal, and a healthy Michael Kopech is a great thing for the White Sox and their October aspirations.


Featured Photo: Getty Images


 

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