Michael Kopech Undergoes Knee Surgery

The White Sox announced that right-hander Michael Kopech underwent surgery on his right meniscus on Thursday, with The Athletic’s James Fegan reporting that Kopech suffered a tear.  According to the Sox, Kopech is expected to be ready for the start of Spring Training.

Kopech was already on the 15-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, and he previously missed time in late August and early September due to a left knee strain.  His right knee was the issue this time, and Kopech made to make an early exit from a start in June due to soreness in that same knee, with Kopech saying that he felt a small twinge or popping sensation.  However, Kopech was on the mound seven days later, and while tests at the time didn’t reveal any structural problems, it is possible the tear developed as Kopech continued to pitch over the rest of the season.

Since Kopech already wasn’t expected to pitch again in 2022, it seems like the decision was made to get the meniscus surgery over with early, to give the righty as much time as possible to recover heading into next season.  The team’s statement specified that Kopech wasn’t expected to be facing any limitations when he gets onto the mound at Chicago’s spring camp in February.

Now that Kopech’s 2022 season is officially complete, he can look back on his first season as a starting pitcher as something of a mixed bag.  In terms of pure bottom-line results, Kopech had a 3.54 ERA, though he was greatly helped by a .229 BABIP.  This good fortune helped Kopech overcome one of the sport’s worst walk rates (11.5%), as well as below-average hard-hit ball and strikeout rates.

In the bigger picture, Kopech’s two IL stints and now this knee surgery add to a health history that is already rather lengthy.  He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2019, and between that rehab and his decision to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Kopech went two full seasons without pitching.  The White Sox eased the former top prospect back into things by using him mostly as a reliever in 2021, before stretching him out for 119 1/3 innings as a starter this year.

Provided that none of his recent injuries result in any setbacks, Kopech should be set to build on that innings total as a member of Chicago’s rotation in 2023.  He’ll also enter salary arbitration for the first of three trips this winter, and Kopech is slated to enter free agency following the 2025 season.

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