GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Kopech, as general manager Rick Hahn put it, is “champing at the bit” to pitch in the major leagues. But his time has not yet come.
And Kopech, 21, knows it.
“I understand how everything works. I also understand I probably need a few more appearances at that level,’’ Kopech said Friday.
The No. 10-ranked prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, Kopech will continue to get work with the major-league club into the last week of camp. He is slated to pitch in relief against the Athletics on Sunday in Mesa, following likely opening-day starter James Shields.
Kopech, who posted a 2.87 ERA with 155 strikeouts in 22 starts and 119⅓ innings at Class AA Birmingham last season, will open the season at Class AAA Charlotte, where he made three late-season starts after a promotion.
“I haven’t had much time in Triple-A,’’ Kopech said. “I feel I could go up and compete right now, but there are some things that need to be refined.’’
Outfielder Eloy Jimenez, the No. 4 prospect per Baseball America, proclaimed his readiness for the big leagues after he was optioned to Birmingham this week. Hahn knows the organization has two special talents fans are eager to see in a major-league uniform.
“Eloy told [the media] he’s ready, which is great,’’ Hahn said. “And Michael is champing at the bit and feels he’s ready. Which is fantastic. I’d rather they feel they belong and showing no fear. But there are real development questions on each player we want answered at the minor-league level.’’
For Jimenez, who homered twice and tripled in nine plate appearances this spring, it’s working on his defense and facing more Class AA and AAA pitching over an extended period. For Kopech, who had two good starts and one bad one this spring, it’s developing his changeup and gaining consistency with his slider and fastball command.
Hahn insisted keeping both players back is not about preventing their service-time clocks from running.
“Eloy is 21, has spent three weeks or something above A ball. Michael is 21, has made three starts above Double-A,’’ Hahn said. “These are not players who have answered all the questions they could face at the highest minor-league level.’’
Kopech is pleased with how the changeup is progressing. His bullpen session Thursday was the latest indicator.
“The changeup has come a long way, and that’s what I’m most excited about,’’ Kopech said.
More work awaits at Charlotte, but likely not for a whole season.
“I’m not putting my expectations over the club’s,’’ Kopech said. “I trust the process, and I’m expecting to be up there some point this year.’’
NOTE: The Sox made seven roster moves, optioning first baseman Casey Gillaspie to Class AAA Charlotte and reassigning right-handers Chris Beck, Dane Dunning and Connor Walsh, infielders Jake Elmore and Patrick Leonard and catcher Seby Zavala to minor-league camp. The Sox have 38 players remaining in camp.
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