Sox top pitching prospect Kopech continues to work on his changeup

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Not a good day — make that not a good one-third of an inning — for Michael Kopech on Sunday. (AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Kopech’s first Cactus League outing last year is still etched in his head.

“It actually wasn’t a great one,’’ Kopech said. “Things got a little rocky.’’

Kopech gave up four earned runs in one inning, including a three-run homer to the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger. Things would improve for Kopech. He had a five-strikeout outing against the Cubs in mid-March and an impressive season between Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte.

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On Monday, Kopech will make his spring debut against the Athletics at Camelback Ranch and hopefully have a better result.

“Eager is probably a good word,’’ Kopech said.

“I’m hoping to take what I’ve been working on out here into the game and see how everything pans out.’’

With a fastball that touches 100 mph as well as a hard slider, Kopech also has a changeup that could be a difference-maker as a third pitch. He is working on it in camp and getting a better feel for the pitch every time out.

“The more I throw it, the more comfortable I get with it, and the more comfortable I get, the more I’m going to use it,’’ said Kopech, MLBPipeline’s No. 10-ranked prospect. “Hopefully, it’s something I can throw in whatever count I want and take that to the next level with me.’’

“I feel really good,’’ Kopech said of his first two weeks in camp.

Play ball!

Manager Rick Renteria was vague about what his lineup will look like Friday. Asked if top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert will play, Renteria only offered a “we’ll see a few of those guys. I couldn’t tell you right now off the top of my head.’’

Renteria has 66 players in camp right now and plans to give prospects plenty of playing time, especially early on.

“It doesn’t do me any good to bring someone to camp and not use them,’’ he said. “I think I need to take advantage of that as much as possible. It’s going to be a fun spring.’’

Prospects passing the eye test

Hitting coach Todd Steverson likes what he sees so far from the Sox’ wave of position-player prospects.

“There is a lot of hype about the prospects we’ve acquired,’’ Steverson said. “You haven’t seen them and just go on people’s word, but when you finally get them on the field you go, ‘OK, maybe that superlative wasn’t out of hand.’

“But these kids are talented. And they’re hungry, and they love to play the game. The best part is they like coming to the ballpark. To have a group of guys with that kind of mentality coming through the minor leagues that doesn’t happen very often.’’

Honoring Parkland

Baseball will honor the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Friday. Teams will wear caps with the logo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“You feel for the parents and the friends and family members that have lost children in any of these situations,’’ Renteria said. “It just makes common sense to be able to show that we’re all kind of connected in some way.’’

Late arrivals

Venezuelans Alfredo Gonzalez and Jose Rondon arrived late after getting their visa problems resolved, but Renteria wasn’t sure when Bruce Rondon and Jose Ruiz would arrive.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.


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