Drew Thorpe set for White Sox debut on Tuesday against Mariners

SEATTLE — The White Sox woke up from a wrenching loss to the Mariners Tuesday having something to look forward to.

Right-hander Drew Thorpe was arriving from Double-A Birmingham to make his major league debut, and he’s bringing his changeup with him. It’s always good to have something — anything — to look forward to when you’re the White Sox, who got walked off by a grand slam for their 50th loss after leading the Mariners 4-0 in the eighth inning Monday night.

MLB Pipeline’s minor league Pitching Prospect of the Year in 2023 who was acquired from the Padres in a spring training deal for Dylan Cease, Thorpe has picked up on last season’s success at Birmingham, where he is 7-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60 innings. Pipeline prospect guru Jim Callis calls Thorpe’s changeup “one of the best in the game.” His low 90s-mph fastball pales to the upper 90s and sometimes triple-digit touching heaters Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech feature, but it’s more than enough velocity used in concert with that changeup and a good slider.

“One thing I’ve learned about the big leagues is you have to have plus-plus something,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said Monday. “He’s got a plus-plus changeup. He commands the fastball, he’s a really good athlete. He’s not afraid of contact and he’s got the makeup for it. Doesn’t mean he’s going to come up here and win a Cy Young. But we feel like he’s ready for this opportunity.”

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In the last Sox rebuild, Kopech’s debut at Guaranteed Rate Field on Aug. 21, 2018, created a bigger buzz, in large part because that rebuild had Sox fans more excited about the future than this one, and Kopech’s appearance came at home where a large group of fans gathered around the bullpen to watch him warm up. Among the Tuesday night crowd of 23,133 were 8,000 ticket buyers and 1,400 who cashed vouchers after Kopech’s impending debut was announced.

“I only got to see him a few days during spring training and what I gathered is that he had his head on straight and went about his business,” Kopech told the Sun-Times Monday. “His stuff spoke for itself. If he can stay composed, which seems to come naturally for him and pitch how he knows to pitch, the results will take care of themselves. He definitely doesn’t have to do anything different.”

Kopech struck out four Twins in two scoreless innings that night, his outing shortened by a rain delay. He has since been converted to a late-inning reliever, and his being in the middle of the Mariners’ comeback Monday, the latest in an up-and-down mixed results (he owns a 1-6 record and 4.94 ERA after allowing three runs Monday) is evidence that nothing is etched in stone when it comes to prospects. Six years after his debut, his future seems like it could go any number of ways.

“There’s a level of anticipation of anybody who comes up,” said Grifol, who has a background in player development in the Mariners and Royals organizations. “We just saw [third baseman] Bryan Ramos come up here [from Birmingham] and hold his own there for about a week and a half or two weeks. Unfortunately he had that [quad] injury. Then he came back, made some adjustments and now he’s back [at Triple-A] Charlotte working on some things.

“I’m a big believer on guys coming to the big leagues and if they have success great, keep them here, if they don’t, let them learn. Go back down and figure it out, come back up and continue to go. I’ve seen many a players do that.”

Thorpe, 23, is Pipeline’s No. 58 prospect (Kopech was No. 13 when he made his debut], ranked behind shortstop Colson Montgomery (No. 10) and left-hander Noah Schultz (No. 38) among Sox minor leaguers. Take the rankings for what they’re worth, it’s now about what happens next. Callis pegs Thorpe as probably is as a No. 3 starter, but noting he has exceeded expectations early in his pro career.

“It’s not trying to do too much, just show what you can do,” Kopech said. “He’ll have scouting reports here, so he’ll be prepared. The stuff will take care of itself. There’s a reason we want him here.”

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