Associated Press

Take everything you hear about player health with a grain of salt

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I’ve spent the morning living in the past. It’s my brother’s 45th birthday today so I woke up thinking about him a lot. How he got so old while I’ve stayed so young and vibrant is a mystery but I’ll call him later to taunt him about that.

Then, thanks to that Facebook memories, and the fact that I’m usually at spring training in early March, I was reminded of a ton of past spring training happenings. Six years ago today I witnessed a Mets fan berating a hotel clerk in Port St. Lucie. Four years ago today I saw Yu Darvish‘s debut, during which a credentialed cameraman dropped his camera and dove for a foul ball. It happened the morning after I met a guy in a bar with a head wound who thought that women getting the right to vote was the worst thing ever. I wonder what happened to that guy. I assume he’s running Trump’s Arizona operation but I can’t be sure. I’m flying to Phoenix on Thursday so I’ll try to catch up with him.

An event more relevant to the 2016 season has me looking backwards too. It’s this story about Braves outfielder Nick Markakis from Mark Bowman at MLB.com. It’s an encouraging story about how he is feeling 100% this year and how, unlike last year, after a short spring training due to his recovery from neck surgery, he is swinging free and easy, has power and is relieved to be able to engage in his entire, usual spring training routine. What a nightmare last year was! How good that is in the past!

But then I remembered last year Markakis, as most players coming off of injuries or surgeries do, claimed he was totally fine. Indeed, he claimed it exactly one year ago today, telling Bowman “I’ll be fine with a week’s worth of at-bats” and suggesting that the neck surgery was no issue at all. Guess not.

Which, fine. Markakis is an athlete. Athletes, by necessity, spend a lot of time convincing themselves they can do the impossible and convincing themselves that obstacles in front of them are not as big as they seem. Most, I suspect, do not allow themselves to acknowledge long odds until the absolute last moment they have to, preferring instead to engage in positive thinking. They’re wired differently than you and me.

But it does mean that whenever you hear a player talking super positively about his recovery from surgery or injury you should take his claims with a grain of salt. Or at least bookmark it and check back in a year for some more candid comments about where he was at the time he offered said comments.

Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season

Kopech has opted out
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Michael Kopech has opted out of the 2020 season. The White Sox starter informed the team of his decision today, and the team issued a press release to that affect a few minutes ago.

The statement from general manager Rick Hahn. said “we recognize that reaching this decision is incredibly difficult for any competitive athlete, and our organization is understanding and supportive. We will work with Michael to assure his development continues throughout 2020, and we look forward to welcoming him back into our clubhouse for the 2021 season.”

Kopech, 24, has only four big league starts under his belt, all coming in late August and early September of 2018, but after a strong spring training he was likely to make Chicago’s rotation at some point in the 2020 season after sitting out all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Kopech was among the players sent to Chicago from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade back in December 2016. Others involved in the deal included Yoán Moncada, Victor Diaz, and Luis Alexander Basabe.

Now, however, Kopech has opted out.