Michael Kopech hopes to be in command in start Sunday

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Michael Kopech, the 100-mph right-hander acquired with Yoan Moncada and two other prospects for Chris Sale, makes his second start Sunday against the Rangers at Camelback Ranch.

Kopech was dinged for four runs, including a three-run homer by the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger, in his first start, which lasted one inning. Since then, he has worked with pitching coach Don Cooper and bullpen coach Curt Hasler in bullpen and live batting-practice sessions.

“It’s about pinpointing what you need to work on and establishing a plan to get better,’’ Kopech said. “Command can never be too good. I always need to be better with command.’’

Fastball command, yes. That’s Kopech’s best pitch. But an emphasis this spring is the changeup.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech throws a pitch at the White Sox baseball spring training facility Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After Kopech’s first start, manager Rick Renteria let the 20-year-old down easy, saying his outing wasn’t as bad as the numbers indicated.

“But at the same time, I missed spots, I didn’t execute on pitches,’’ Kopech said. “I should have, and they were taking advantage of it — they’re big-league hitters.’’

Kopech is ranked No. 32 by Baseball America among prospects, behind Moncada (No. 2), Lucas Giolito (No. 25) and Reynaldo Lopez (No. 31). MLBpipeline.com has Kopech at 16, behind Moncada and Giolito, but ESPN’s Keith Law rates him as the Sox’ top prospect.

Praise for Quintana

Kopech said he can learn a thing or two by watching Jose Quintana in action. He and Carlos Rodon marveled at Quintana’s outing against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Friday.

“He’s nasty. And consistent. He’s always locked in. So fun to watch,” Kopech said.

“He faced an All-Star lineup and literally no-hit them,” Rodon said.

Rodon report

Rodon, continuing his slow and steady progression to the start of the season, threw 48 pitches to hitters in two segments. Rodon, who said he’ll throw 55-60 next time out in a simulated game Tuesday, said his arm felt much stronger than when he threw three days before.

“I had a slow start, I had to build up to where these guys were at and we’re getting there now,’’ Rodon said.

“It was a good day. Keep on building.’’

Rodon, who rates as the Sox’ second- or third-best starter behind Quintana, is lined up to start the Sox’ fifth game of the season.

Bats both

Moncada, a natural right-handed hitter, says he started switch-hitting at 10 because his father insisted on it.

From the right side, though, Moncada said his swing “is more technical.” From the left side, it’s “more fluid.”

Moncada is batting .217 (5-for-23 with five walks and eight strikeouts) and has made four errors, so he hasn’t lit the Arizona desert on fire. He does have five hits in his last 16 at-bats after starting 0-for-7.

“He’s had some things where you go, ‘Ah, he’s not standing out from anybody till he puts the barrel on the ball,’ ” Renteria said. “Then you go, ‘Ah, when he barrels it, there’s some life to it.’ ”

Renteria said Moncada’s approach has been solid.

“He’s not a panicky-type hitter,” Renteria said. ”As he continues to play and gain more experience, the things he’s capable of doing will come to the surface.”

This and that

Avisail Garcia, who did not play Saturday, was tied for the Cactus League lead with 12 hits. Garcia is batting .435 with two doubles, one home run and one RBI in nine games.

*Tyler Saladino is batting .429 with two homers and four RBI.

*Peter Bourjos is hitting .364 with a double and two triples.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.
Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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