Now that the MLB lockout is over, we can finally turn our attention to the field and what to expect for the upcoming season. On Friday, Rick Hahn said building throwing depth would be a priority for the team, especially given the nature of the shortened ramp through the regular season. This depth will be even greater in the bullpen, for several reasons. For starters, Hahn said players will typically be put on a pitch count at the start of the year, to protect them when they stretch their arms. From a pragmatic standpoint, the White Sox will need some help in the bullpen as Michael Kopech is expected to join the starting rotation, and Evan Marshall, Jace Fry and Ryan Tepera are all free agents.
Given those two factors, Hahn hinted that another young phenom, Garrett Hook, would be used primarily as a reliever in 2022. But Hahn also suggested the team could take advantage of Hook’s versatility.
“It may look a bit like how Kopech was used in 2021 in terms of occasional longer outings or occasional outings as needed,” Hahn said.
Makes sense, since the White Sox aspired for Hook to become a front-row starter when they drafted him No. 11 overall in the 2020 draft. But with major league-level needs and no season minor league player that year, Hook was sped to the south side to help in the bullpen. That’s where he stayed last year, as a flexible pitcher who could be called upon to score one in a key spot or gobble up multiple innings.
The White Sox have deployed Kopech in an equally versatile way in 2021. Tony La Russa has used him for catches in the final innings of close games, as a mid-inning bridge in case a starter doesn’t. his best stuff, and even as a spot starter four times. If the White Sox want to help flesh out the bullpen, while also helping Hook on his path to becoming a starter, following the team’s plan for Kopech could be a win-win.
That said, Hahn left the door open for those plans to change, as teams and players hadn’t been in touch for almost 100 days.
“We want to see the player and where he is and build a plan for him once we’re all together.”
If all goes according to plan, Hook could be the Swiss army knife in the White Sox bullpen this year.