Michael Kopech suspects he tipped pitches, knows he must execute them better

White Sox righty Michael Kopech looks to rebound from an awful start.

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Michael Kopech reacts after the Giants’ Thairo Estrada homered Monday in Chicago. (AP)

Michael Kopech reacts after the Giants’ Thairo Estrada homered during the fifth inning of the White Sox home opening game in Chicago, Monday, April 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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PITTSBURGH — Michael Kopech took a beating against the Giants in the White Sox’ home opener, allowing five homers and seven runs.

He knows the Sox need a much better version of him at the back of a rotation that struggled overall in the first eight games of the season. Throwing much more than one lights-out inning is a must. He expects as much as his stamina builds with each start.

But Kopech liked his stuff, and pitching coach Ethan Katz noted the action and effectiveness of his changeup, a pitch expanding Kopech’s four-pitch mix. That’s what Kopech is leaning on going into his second start Sunday.

“There were positives from his outing,” Katz said. “With how well he started off, we want him to carry that outing to outing and not lose it in the middle of a game.”

The Sox suspect the Giants saw something in Kopech’s delivery that tipped his pitch selection.

“There’s suspicion of it,” Kopech said. “I don’t know if there’s anything to pinpoint or we can know for sure, but we looked at some things. We did work on trying to clean that stuff up.

“Just make sure I’m doing the same thing every pitch. But that’s part of the game now. People have technologies for it; they see it. So you have to be almost hyperaware of it without letting it control your thoughts.”

Here are Katz’s thoughts on Kopech coming off a year in which he dealt with knee problems and had a 3.54 ERA in 24 starts:

“This is the year you want to see him take the next step forward. Like any younger guy. But this is a great opportunity for him to keep developing. He’s shown a lot of growth in everything we asked in spring training.”

Kopech is confident his pitches will play, but he said he has to work ahead in counts and execute pitches better.

“I’m happy with where my stuff is right now,” he said. “Going to keep leaning on that.”

Colas gets a hit against a lefty

After hitting the first homer of his career against right-hander Wil Crowe on Friday in a game started by a left-hander, Oscar Colas got his first hit against a lefty Saturday, a two-run single against Rob Zastryzny.

“Oscar’s not a platoon player,” manager Pedro Grifol said.

“You have to be ready to hit righties and lefties,” said Colas, who was 1-for-4 in his first four plate appearances against lefties. “In a long season, you know if you’re going to do good, you also have to hit lefties.”

Feetfirst

Luis Robert and others have been hurt diving or sliding into bases headfirst, one reason why the preference from the coaching staff is feetfirst slides.

“Just, again, keep these guys in the lineup,” Grifol said. “There are a lot of injuries that come headfirst. When it’s time to dive headfirst, you dive headfirst. But, for the most part, if there’s an opportunity to go feetfirst, just take it.”

Stealers’ wheels

Steals by Colas, Andrew Benintendi and Tim Anderson made the Sox 12-for-12 this season. Anderson has five.

“I’m liking what our guys are doing,” Grifol said.

“They’re picking good spots, good pitches to run on. They’re getting good jumps. We spent a lot of time on that in the spring.”

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