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White Sox teammates confident in Kopech’s future

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon was preparing for his start when he got word that Michael Kopech needed Tommy John surgery.

Rodon said the news was disappointing but expressed confidence that Kopech could bounce back strong.

“Luckily, he’s young,” said Rodon, who took the loss as the Sox fell 5-2 to the Angels. “He’s 22, and the kid works really hard. He’ll be back strong. It’s just tough news. Tough break when you first get called up and that happens. You’ve just got to roll with it.”

Sox manager Rick Renteria remains confident about next year – even if the club is not sure yet how it will replace Kopech. The front end of the Sox’ rotation likely will feature Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, but the back end of the rotation is less certain.

Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Los Angeles of Anaheim during the third inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 7, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 07: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Los Angeles of Anaheim during the third inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 7, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775137363

Young arms such as Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen and Carson Fulmer could earn a look in the spring. Dylan Covey has gained valuable experience as a starter, and the team could look to the free-agent market for veteran help.

“This is a hiccup, albeit a pretty strong hiccup,” Renteria said.

Kevan Smith, who watched Kopech develop in the minors before catching him in Chicago, said the injury news came as a shock.

“We’re going to be here for him and keep him motivated,” Smith said. “But he’s a hard worker. He’s going to kick the (stuff) out of his rehab. He’s always had great mechanics, repeatable mechanics, but it just shows you, you just never know when your arm might go.”

Feeling his pain

Giolito was one of the first teammates to talk with Kopech after the news broke.

Giolito had plenty to share. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 as a top prospect with the Nationals.

“Unfortunately, this day and age, it’s a regular part of the game with pitchers,” Kopech said. “Personally, I never thought it would be something I would be going through. But it’s part of it, and unfortunately for them but fortunately for me, there’s a lot of guys in this clubhouse who have gone through it, so there’s a lot of people I can talk to about it, and I will.

“Right now, it’s an emotional point for me, but seeing there are other guys who have gone through it is going to be helpful.”

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Giolito expressed confidence that Kopech would be fine in the long term.

“He’s only 22 years old and one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met,” Giolito wrote on Twitter. “He’s only going to come back stronger from this.”

So close

Adam Engel nearly added another highlight-reel catch to his growing collection.

Engel tracked a long fly ball off the bat of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani and leaped against the wall in center field. As he reached above the yellow line, the ball knocked his glove off his hand and over the wall.

The blast marked Ohtani’s 19th of the season and his third in two games since learning that he also needs Tommy John surgery.