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White Sox teammates’ support for right-hander Michael Kopech remains strong

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

White Sox pitcher MIchael Kopech works out during spring training earlier this year in Glendale, Arizona.
White Sox pitcher MIchael Kopech works out during spring training earlier this year in Glendale, Arizona.
AP

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. Catcher James McCann, pitchers Lucas Giolito, Gio Gonzalez, Aaron Bummer, Carlos Rodon and Dane Dunning, bench coach Joe McEwing, pitching coach Don Cooper and general manager Rick Hahn all have expressed it in 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 reigning American League Central champion Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. And it will begin without Kopech, whose lights-out stuff potentially could have given the Sox, along with Giolito, two young aces to better equip them for chasing down the Twins.

‘‘As a team and as an organization, especially us as players, we support Michael in everything he’s going through,’’ Giolito said after allowing one run in four innings in the Sox’ intrasquad game Monday. ‘‘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 about Kopech’s well-being — given the mystery surrounding his decision and the way he openly talked about his issues with anxiety and depression in the past — have been raised, sources confirmed a report Monday in The Athletic that numerous factors weighed in Kopech’s decision not to pitch in 2020.

They included a short ramp-up period during an uncertain summer-camp environment leading up to an abbreviated season — all while coming off his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Other factors included the uncertainty of his role on the staff during 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 about Kopech’s concerns after taking part in numerous meetings with him, sources confirmed. Manager Rick Renteria had multiple phone conversations with Kopech leading up to his decision.

In making the announcement Friday, the Sox expressed support for Kopech but declined to reveal his reasoning. They say they won’t discuss Kopech’s decision until after he talks about it publicly, which they don’t expect him to do until the season is over. Kopech doesn’t want to be a focus of attention while the team is trying to win games.

The Sox just want to focus on winning without Kopech, and they think they are equipped to do so. They wish their teammate the best and are understanding of whatever it was he agonized over while coming to his decision.

‘‘We’re in a pandemic,’’ Bummer said last week on The Score. ‘‘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.’’