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June 04, 2017

For years, baseball’s cognoscenti have recognized the accomplishments of Chicago's secret weapon, pitching coach Don Cooper. From mentoring turnarounds to a remarkable track record of keeping his charges healthy, Cooper (with an assist from White Sox head trainer Herm Schneider) has turned lemons into lemonade again and again.

It’s happening once more this season on the South Side, in the form of two reborn relievers. Righthander Anthony Swarzak meandered through three different organizations with little success, at first struggling as a low-strikeout option with the Twins, then getting crushed by a blizzard of home runs last season with the Yankees. He’s turned into a bullpen demon this year, striking out a career-best 28.1% of the batters he’s faced, while allowing just 17 hits and one homer in 25 ⅔ innings pitched. 

Fellow righty Tommy Kahnle’s been even better, morphing into one of the most devastating bullpen arms in the game. Kahnle’s 1 ⅔ scoreless innings Sunday lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.19. He’s whiffed an obscene 48.8% of the batters he’s faced this year, trailing only Boston's Craig Kimbrel among all MLB pitchers with anywhere near as many innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .156 against Kahnle's fastball, and .085(!) against his changeup.

The struggles of putative ace Jose Quintana have (at least temporarily) dampened the potential return for Chicago’s most obvious trade asset. But if the Sox load up on deadline deals as expected, they’ll have an army of reliever-hungry teams lining up at their door, thanks to the continually stellar work of Cooper and his merry men.

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