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White Sox’ Michael Kopech at peace with life — and different role

The hard-throwing right-hander is set to contribute from the bullpen.

Michael Kopech throws a pitch during live batting practice on the backfields of Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
Michael Kopech throws a pitch during live batting practice on the backfields of Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech says he’s at peace, and maybe that’s every bit as important as still possessing a right arm that’s finally ready to go after more than two seasons on the sidelines.

Kopech hasn’t pitched in the majors since August 2018 after having Tommy John surgery, then opting out for personal reasons in 2020. He’s going to work his way back in the bullpen, which is unfamiliar territory. Manager Tony La Russa has brought starters along in the pen before, such as Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn with the Cardinals, and the Sox successfully broke in Chris Sale by using him in the pen.

It’s a plan that makes sense, and it’s another wrinkle for the 24-year-old Kopech, for whom Sox fans have been waiting patiently to unleash his electric stuff. He arrives after his layoff just in time to contribute to a team with World Series goals.

La Russa said Kopech could be a multi-inning option in relief, and he didn’t rule out the possibility of starter duty later in the season.

‘‘As far as the creative role, I’m looking forward to that, if for no other reason than just to be on this team,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘It’s a special team. I think we all know that we have the ability to win.

‘‘I don’t need to speak to the talent or the depth that we have. But with a Hall of Fame manager and a Cy Young [Dallas Keuchel] in our rotation and a no-hitter [Lucas Giolito] in our rotation and some of the best hitters in the league, you can’t really find a hole on this team. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of, whether it’s a small role or a major one.’’

It’s good to hear Kopech saying he is having fun. The Tommy John surgery was anything but, and he has been open about dealing with anxiety issues in the past. He became a first-time father before spring training, welcoming a baby with actress Vanessa Morgan. That relationship — with all its ups and downs — has been well-covered wherever you click for celebrity news.

So Kopech, who is as thoughtful and transparent as they come, has plenty on his plate. Those who care about him are comforted to know he’s doing well.

‘‘I think peace, just like any emotion or feeling, is kind of fleeting,’’ he said. ‘‘So, yeah, I am at peace with what I can control, which is all you can do because there are so many unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances that I’m not going to have anything to do with. So I think for the most part I am at peace. I appreciate [you asking].’’

There is nothing peaceful about the way Kopech throws the ball, and the idea of him and left-hander Garrett Crochet, a couple of power arms who know the realm of triple-digit velocity, contributing for a full season is intriguing.

They have been paired up as catch partners, leading Kopech to speak of gloves being damaged and Crochet to call it a ‘‘lose-lose situation for anyone involved.’’

‘‘Michael is a guy I knew about in college,’’ Crochet said. ‘‘I saw a young guy throwing hard, and he was jacked. I wanted to go to college, throw hard and be jacked. I’m thankful now I’m able to play catch with him and take advice from him day after day. The guy is an incredibly hard worker.’’

The relief thing is uncharted territory, and Kopech is learning on the job.

‘‘I’m trying to realize that short-time recovery is going to be a lot more important,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘I’ve gotten used to having four days in between starts, doing everything I needed to in those four days and having plenty of time to recover.

‘‘It’s going to be an adjustment for me.’’