White Sox’ Kopech learning patience in recovery

SHARE White Sox’ Kopech learning patience in recovery

During a throwing session on flat ground in spring training, Michael Kopech holds a baseball, inadvertently revealing the scar he had from Tommy John surgery. John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

Michael Kopech wants to pitch today.

Not tomorrow. Not the next day. Not the day after that.

But the 23-year-old knows he has to take things easy in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

“I would say that the physical rehab of the whole process is actually not that difficult at all,” Kopech said Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field, where he and fellow injured pitcher Dane Dunning are visiting for a few days. “It’s the mental side of it that’s kind of tough. It’s a lot of waiting and you have to be patient.

“You can ask most of my teammates, I’m not the most patient person in the world. That’s been a learning curve for me but I’ve really embraced it. I’ve learned a lot from it and I’m at a point where mentally I’m in the best position I could be in.”

Physically, Kopech also is improving. He is throwing from 120 feet in his long-toss program, and he threw on flat ground this week for the first time since undergoing surgery in September. He said doctors told him he was 42 percent along in his recovery plan.

Kopech will return to the White Sox spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz., next week to continue his comeback. He watches the big-league team on TV when he can, and he thinks developing more patience could help him become a better pitcher.

“Throwing wise, it’s coming out easy,” Kopech said. “I’m learning to have more feel. I’m not really at a point where I’m putting too much stress on what I’m doing because I know I have a lot of time left. I’m excited about where I’m at.”

Brace yourself

Dunning, who is about six weeks out from his March surgery, is several months behind Kopech in his recovery from Tommy John. He recently had a bulky arm brace removed and was cleared to do strength exercises but likely will not throw for a couple months.

“The brace was there to help, but it’s a pain,” Dunning said. “It always slides down. It’s really exciting, the day I got it (off). Small victories. Especially with this, it’s a lot of small victories, and that was definitely a victory.

“(Now), when I go out in public, I don’t get people saying, ‘You’re Robo Man.”

Scouting report

Luis Robert is focused on improving despite hitting .420 (34-for-81) between Class A Winston-Salem and Class AA Birmingham to start the season.

“I still have to learn things about the league, about the game,” Robert, 21, said during a conference call. “I just need to keep playing every day. I can’t tell you right now whether I’m ready or not for the majors.”

The Cuban outfielder can tell you he believes his power is here to stay. He hit zero homers in 50 games last season, but he already has eight homers in 21 games this year.

“Last year, the power wasn’t there, and it was something weird with the injuries and the thumb,” Robert said. “My swing was never there. This year, I’m completely healthy and feeling good and the results are there. This is the player that I am.”

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