Michael Kopech throws at the White Sox baseball spring training facility Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP)

Learning process ongoing for Sox’ top pitching prospect Michael Kopech

SHARE Learning process ongoing for Sox’ top pitching prospect Michael Kopech
SHARE Learning process ongoing for Sox’ top pitching prospect Michael Kopech

DETROIT — Right-hander Michael Kopech seems to understand the process, but he’s young — he just turned 21 on April 30 — so knowing he hardly can wait to get to Chicago comes as no surprise.

“Every year is an opportunity to make the big leagues, so I just hope they change their minds, I guess,’’ Kopech said Friday. “I don’t know. My goal in mind is to crack the big leagues at some point this year.’’

The Sox are exercising patience with their top Class AAA pitching prospects, so Kopech should know they’ll take their time with him even though he might be the most talented of the bunch. Kopech is ranked No. 11 among all prospects in baseball, according to MLBpipeline.com.

After being named the Sox’ minor-league pitcher of the month, Kopech said he’s getting more comfortable as he learns how to be more than just a thrower at Class AA Birmingham.

In May, Kopech went 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35 innings.

With a 100 mph fastball and a good slider, Kopech already is equipped to be an effective pitcher out of the bullpen. But the Sox’ goal is for him to be in the starting rotation. Building up innings — the most Kopech has thrown in the minors is 65 at Class A Greenville in the South Atlantic League in 2015 — and commanding a good third pitch are boxes that need to be checked off.

“The changeup is getting there,’’ he said. “I hate to sound like I’m patting myself on the back, but it’s almost unnecessary to throw it at some points. I have to remind myself to use it. I’ve given up a couple home runs on changeups this year just because I’m speeding guys bats up.’’

In 53 innings, Kopech has 75 strikeouts and 31 walks. He’s 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA.

“My stat line may not show [improved fastball command],’’ Kopech said. “I’m still having a lot of walks.

“It’s getting there, but it’s not exactly where I want it, but I’m a little more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year.’’

Kopech has thrown between 95-104 pitches in each of his last seven starts, and he’s learning to pitch to contact “when necessary.’’

“Sure, if I get runners on second and third, I’ll try to get a strikeout there so I can eliminate damage,’’ he said. “It’s pitching to contact when it needs to be so I can [get] myself back in the dugout quicker.’’

Outfielder Micker (pronounced Mike-er) Adolfo, 20, who batted .333 with two homers, 17 RBI and 11 doubles in May, was named the Sox’ minor-league player of the month. Adolfo said he credits his step forward to having a routine, trusting his hands and having a middle-to-right-field approach at the plate.

Adolfo was signed as an international free agent as a 16-year-old. Kopech was acquired from the Red Sox along with infielder Yoan Moncada (ranked No. 1 by MLBpipeline.com), outfielder Luis Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz in the trade for Chris Sale.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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