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Staying in division a plus for new White Sox catcher James McCann

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After being non-tendered by the team that drafted him, developed him and gave him a major-league roster spot for four-plus seasons, former Tigers catcher James McCann is with the White Sox now. It’s safe to say he won’t be sending his former team any Valentine’s Day love Thursday.

“I want to beat them 19 times a year,” McCann said Wednesday, when Sox pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

Signed to complement another veteran, Welington Castillo, the strong-armed catcher known as “McCannon” sees it as a plus that he stayed in the American League Central. He knows the hitters, and he knows the pitchers, especially the Tigers’.

“It’s definitely a bonus. I can’t lie,” said McCann, 28, who signed for one year and $2.5  million. “When the White Sox came calling, it was definitely intriguing to be able to stay in the AL Central and to play the Tigers 19 times.”

Manager Rick Renteria (right) and general manager Rick Hahn watch Carson Fulmer throw during the first day of White Sox spring training. (Photo by Daryl Van Schouwen)

As a rookie, McCann said, he soaked up knowledge about scouting reports and game plans from Cy Young winners Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price.

“Now I can turn around and tell the young guys, ‘Hey, this is what Verlander does. This is what David Price does,’ ” McCann said. “Hopefully that can help them.”

Eloy’s calendar

After the Sox held left fielder Eloy Jimenez down in the minors all last season, it wouldn’t make sense for them to break camp with him when all that’s needed for an additional year of team control is two or three more weeks at Class AAA Charlotte at the onset of the season. It might seem unjust, but that’s the harsh reality for modern-day prized prospects who are probably ready.

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General manager Rick Hahn said Jimenez — who believed he was ready — needed more time last season to work on a few things, particularly his defense.

“We’re just going to see how he looks and line it up over the course of the next couple weeks,” Hahn said. “He is going to be, in our opinion, a tremendous player for the Chicago White Sox for a long time. We all think he’s going to make a significant impact on the field on this team this year and spend the bulk, if not all the season, in Chicago. When, exactly, that time starts remains to be seen. He looks real good today.”

Kopech on target

Michael Kopech played catch, causing a dozen or so camera operators, photographers and reporters to move en masse to get video and pictures. Kopech, the Sox’ top pitching prospect, will miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“Physically, he’s in a very good spot. Mentally, we have to keep him in a good spot,” Hahn said. “There is no need to accelerate the thing whatsoever. From time to time, we might need to remind Michael of what the actual goal is. He’s eager to get back.”

This and that

June 1 is the tentative date for third baseman Jake Burger — the Sox’ 2017 first-round draft pick who missed all of last season with a twice-ruptured Achilles — to return with a minor-league affiliate. But Hahn said that date could be adjusted by a few weeks.

“He could fall out of bed and hit,” Hahn said. “That was always the case with Jake Burger. He’s got a compact, powerful stroke that we really didn’t think he was going to lose because of the time off because of the Achilles.”

Carson Fulmer, the No. 8 overall pick of 2015 who’s trying to work his way back to the big leagues, is 15 pounds lighter.