Michael Kopech gave a thumbs-up after a bullpen session Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
The right-hander passed his tests, putting him in line to start Sunday for the Chicago White Sox against the Houston Astros.
“The big test for me was (Thursday) having that bullpen and seeing if it would be extra sore (Friday) and how it was going to feel,” Kopech said Friday. “I came in and it felt better (Friday) than it did (Thursday). It’s a good sign. I’m improving every day. I think I’ll be ready to go.”
Kopech left his last start Sunday against the Texas Rangers after two-thirds of an inning with right knee discomfort. He exited after throwing 13 pitches.
“I definitely didn’t think it was going to be this quick,” Kopech said. “I don’t know what it was, but the way it felt and not being able to bear weight on it when I got on the mound and tried to throw another pitch, I definitely thought it would be pretty bad news. I’m definitely grateful for what I did get.”
He hobbled off the mound after throwing a pitch to Adolis García in the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field.
After a discussion with the training staff, Kopech went back on the mound to prepare for a warmup pitch. He stopped just as he was beginning, walked behind the mound and threw the ball to the ground in frustration. But after the game, Kopech said he was relieved to hear it wasn’t a more serious injury, and manager Tony La Russa brought up the possibility of Kopech pitching in Houston.
“I came back with surprisingly good news from that and every day has been surprisingly better,” Kopech said. “If you had asked me (Sunday) if this would be the case, I probably would have been pretty doubtful about it. I feel good.”
The good news meant he didn’t have to miss extended time.
“I think there would have been that thought if there was anything structurally going on,” Kopech said. “But looking at the MRI and seeing the movements I’ve been able to make in a short amount of time since, I just don’t think there’s any point in doing that. Try to keep going.”
As far as having to keep tabs on the knee the rest of the season, Kopech said, “I think TBD,”
“For the most part, where I’m at with it, I think I’m going to feel it for the rest of the year probably,” Kopech said. “But it’s just being able to tolerate it, and I can tolerate it. As long as it’s not painful and getting in the way of me doing what I need to do, I can deal with a little discomfort.
“But it’s gotten better day to day. Who knows? Maybe by Sunday I’m not feeling anything at all.”
Kopech threw between 30-35 pitches Thursday. La Russa liked what he saw.
“He feels great,” La Russa said. “He’s ready.”
Kopech has been one of the team’s top pitchers as he moved back into the rotation after spending most of 2021 in the bullpen. He’s 2-2 with a 1.92 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 11 starts. He has limited opponents to one hit while pitching at least five innings in four of his starts.
One of his best outings came in a Sunday night game. Kopech allowed one hit with six strikeouts and two walks in seven innings in Game 2 of a May 22 doubleheader against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. He retired the first 17 batters before Rob Brantly broke up the perfect game with a two-out double in the sixth.
He’s set for another opportunity on that stage, this time in his home state. Kopech resides in Tyler, Texas.
“As far as how it feels physically, the humidity reminds me of home,” Kopech said. “Definitely being closer to the family and closer to some friends that I’m familiar with over here, I’m excited.”