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Michael Kopech debut reminder for White Sox fans to stay patient

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As Michael Kopech took the mound for his White Sox debut on Tuesday night, the charge in Guaranteed Rate Field was discernible even with dozens of miles of cable and a television screen as a buffer.

With every pitch, over 23,000 fans who have been waiting for this moment — the moment where an expected franchise cornerstone gives genuine reason for optimism in a season that was designed to be given away — listed and swayed together as if they were sharing electrons. Hundreds of thousands more did the same from home.

For two brief innings, Kopech temporarily transported fans to what most would envision as the endgame. Despite giving up three hits and plunking (maybe) Robbie Grossman, Kopech pitched over trouble with absolutely electrifying stuff.

Through the first three-quarters of the season, Atlanta Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz threw more pitches of 95 MPH or more than any other player in baseball when he did it 79 times during a 113-pitch start on May 27. In just 52 offerings, Kopech did it 41 times on his way to four strikeouts on Tuesday. He also sprinkled this in.

And broke off this 81 MPH curveball from the same arm slot as his fastball to boot.

Then the rain came.

It robbed a packed house of a moment they’d all been waiting patiently for. Off and on showers that lasted around an hour forced the White Sox to issue another reminder that their fans are going to have to be extremely patient with this ballclub.

The delay was right on the edge of where you consider trotting a starter back out onto the mound. But with the White Sox still needing to finish their turn at bat in the second inning before Kopech could return, they decided to make the more prudent decision and end the 22-year-old’s night.

In another time, this is an organization where you might have expected them to cave under the pressure of a restless fanbase — to see over 9,000 walkups show up in a season where walkups have been nonexistent and give them whatever they desired. However, as we’ve seen throughout this 20-month old rebuild, these aren’t those White Sox.

Rick Hahn isn’t going to make any decisions that jeopardize the organization’s future potential to contend. Everybody has known Kopech and Eloy Jimenez have been ready for this level for many weeks (probably months for Jimenez), but Hahn has appropriately delayed the beginning of their service time despite plenty of pressure from anxious fans and media members.

So it only makes sense that he’d make the tough call to shut Kopech down and send tens of thousands of fans home feeling unsatisfied. With a power arm like that, taking a risk to get Kopech’s arm loose again in pursuit of win No. 48 on the season would have been entirely off-brand for this rebuild.

Even if nothing happened to Kopech, it would have sent a message that the decision-makers within this organization could be co-opted by enough public pressure. That’s something that Hahn can’t afford with years left to play out in this process.

Kopech’s arrival to the Major Leagues is just one step of that process. While the White Sox surely would have preferred that Kopech got to finish his first career start at the big-league level on his own terms, the fact that they got to use it to issue another reminder to these fans probably works for them too.

We saw enough of Kopech on Tuesday night to know that the stuff is as good as advertised. We saw enough inefficiency to know that he also has work to do to become the innings-eater he so badly wants to be as well.

Throughout the rest of the season, we’ll likely see plenty of both when the young phenom takes the mound.

Now it’s up to White Sox fans to shake off the disappointment of Tuesday night to make sure that the energy is the same when he does.

Ryan Wooden is a full-time sports writer based in the Chicago suburbs. In addition to co-founding The Chicago Sports Column, he is a weekend editor for BetChicago and covers prep sports in DuPage County for the Daily Herald and Shaw Media. Find him away from the computer (or don't) on some body of water or some golf course somewhere.