DETROIT — Michael Kopech’s whirlwind week, his first in the big leagues, spun him back around Thursday to his teenage years when the prized pitching prospect posted racist and homophobic tweets he has since deleted.
Several Twitter users exposed racist tweets of his from 2013 — one of which included the N-word. Kopech, 22, was 17 at the time.
“Yeah, I had to delete some stuff,” Kopech told the Sun-Times on Thursday. “Things I said that were immature and inappropriate. I used some poor language in there. Obviously, I’m trying to be looked at as a role model, and the last thing I want to do is have some kid look at what I’m saying and take it the wrong way.’’
Kopech was the toast of the town Tuesday, revving up a Guaranteed Rate Field crowd with a four-strikeout, scoreless performance over two innings. Two days later, he found out what an unforgiving space social media can be, faced with answering questions about the tweets he deeply regrets. Kopech was contrite and frank.
“It’s unfortunate that I was ever at that point mentally, but it’s not who I am now,’’ Kopech said. “Yeah, I cleaned some tweets up and tried to get rid of them. But, obviously, people saw them. It’s not who I am now, and it’s not who I want to be.’’
Kopech, who received a 50-game suspension in 2015 when he tested positive for a banned stimulant and broke a bone in his pitching hand in 2016 in a fight with a teammate, has been transparent and forthcoming about not only his pitching but his personal life in public and has maintained a clean image since the White Sox acquired him from the Red Sox in December 2016.
“It was something I did in high school, and with everything I’ve gone through in pro ball the last five seasons, I feel like a big part of my career was maturing,’’ he said. “Hate to see it, but it’s not who I am anymore.”
Among the deleted material, Kopech tweeted “were you calling us fags?” and “[N-word] still ain’t tweetin back” and “they’re gay!!”
Kopech, whose actress girlfriend Vanessa Morgan is biracial, says he has come a long way since his teenage years growing up in East Texas. But as he prepares for his second start Sunday in Detroit, he’ll have to answer questions much like Trea Turner, Sean Newcomb and Josh Hader, who were found to have murky social-media history last month, had to. All three received backlash for offensive tweets that were dug up. They also apologized for the tweets, which have since been deleted.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the organization is satisfied Kopech took responsibility for the tweets.
“Michael has been very upfront about his tweets from high school several years ago,” Hahn said. “He has taken responsibility and apologized for his offensive and inappropriate word choices at the time, but has stressed that those careless words do not reflect who he is today. It is certainly true they don’t reflect the young man we know as a maturing, growing and developing member of our organization.’’
Meanwhile, Kopech threw a bullpen session with pitching coach Don Cooper in advance of his much-anticipated second start and first on the road. As he approaches his career high for innings in a season, he says he feels strong enough to pitch as many innings as the Sox see fit in the last six weeks.
“I feel really good,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘I’ve felt more comfortable than I have in a really long time. I feel like I can finish out strong this year.’’
Kopech pitched 134 innings between Class AA Birmingham and Class AAA Charlotte in 2017, his first year in the Sox’ organization. Hahn said the Sox will monitor how he feels down the stretch.
“I’m sure,’’ Kopech said. “Which is fine. I know they want to be careful with me, and I understand that. But right now, physically, I feel great, and hopefully that continues throughout the rest of the season.
“It’s starting to settle in. I mean, [Tuesday] was such a surreal experience, getting to live out that dream. It was awesome. But I’m kind of glad I’m past that point so I can actually focus on pitching and going about my starts the right way.’’
Kopech will be opposed by Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. His next home start would line up for next Friday against the Red Sox.
“I’m pumped up,’’ he said.