Michael Kopech gave Cubs a fistful of strikeouts

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Kopech won’t soon forget that five-strikeout performance — in two innings — against the Cubs on Friday. Cubs manager Joe Maddon won’t, either. He talked about it the day after.

“It was kind of like watching Aroldis [Chapman],’’ Maddon said, “the way the ball reacts at home plate.’’

Pitching before a rare sellout crowd at Camelback Ranch, Kopech touched 102 mph. In his first inning, the sixth, he struck out Jason Heyward and Tommy La Stella and retired Willson Contreras on a fly ball. In the seventh, he fanned Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Jeimer Candelario. That’s three major-leaguers and two of the Cubs’ top prospects.

“He was throwing his fastball, and it was like, ‘You’re going to have to hurt me with that,’ ’’ Sox manager Rick Renteria said.

Michael Kopech struck out five Cubs in two innings Friday.

It was a good couple of days for general manager Rick Hahn, who pulled the trigger on the trade of Chris Sale that netted two of the Red Sox’ top prospects — infielder Yoan Moncada and Kopech — as well as center fielder Luis Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz. On Wednesday, Moncada homered against Jason Hammel and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals in consecutive at-bats.

Kopech, 20, wants to pitch in the majors soon, but the Sox won’t rush him. High Class A Winston-Salem is his likely starting point, with a promotion to Class AA Birmingham not far off.

As Renteria said, Kopech needs more innings, must command the strike zone more consistently and — this is true of more advanced prospects such as Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, as well — “develop his secondary pitches because there will be times he may not have command of all his pitches but may have a few to survive a ballgame.’’

There’s no doubt about that stuff, though. Maddon called Kopech “really interesting.’’

“I talked about that [late life on the fastball] with Chapman last year,’’ Maddon said. “When you’re in the dugout, that last 15 or 20 feet, it’s just different the way the ball rides to the catcher’s mitt. Good delivery. Nice breaking ball. Really good.’’

Minaya out with abdominal tear

Right-hander Juan Minaya, who was in the picture for one of two open spots in the Sox’ bullpen, has been sidelined with an abdominal tear. Minaya was having a good spring with nine strikeouts and two walks in 5‰ innings. He allowed two runs.

The Sox claimed the 26-year-old off waivers from the Astros on June 22. He appeared in 11 games last season, posting a 4.35 ERA in 10⅓ innings. He struck out six and walked five.

Minaya was injured during the game against the Royals on Wednesday.

David Robertson, Nate Jones, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and left-hander Dan Jennings are set in the bullpen. Michael Ynoa (who is out of options), Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey (who must be offered back to the A’s if he doesn’t make the team), Anthony Swarzak and lefties Cory Leubke and Matt Purke are among the options to fill out the staff.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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