White Sox’ first trip starts with AL champion Indians
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The White Sox visit the defending American League champion Indians on Tuesday to start a nine-game trip, knowing Cleveland is favored to win the AL Central again.
‘‘We saw [their strengths] early last season,’’ Sox manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘They didn’t get off to the start people anticipated, but with the body of players they have, you knew.
‘‘But the whole division is pretty good. Even the Twins are athletic and aggressive. There are no slouches.’’
The Sox went 8-11 against the Indians last season but won six of the last nine after losing eight of the first 10 meetings.
Right-hander Dylan Covey will make his major-league debut Friday or Saturday in Minnesota. Selected by the Sox in December as a Rule 5 draft pick from the Athletics’ organization, he missed most of last season with a strained right oblique muscle.
His debut will mark the end of a long personal health saga since learning in 2010 after he was drafted that he had Type 1 diabetes.
‘‘When you’re a Rule 5, you want to do a nice job for the club you’re trying to make,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘I guess there’s some anxiety that comes with it, but during the spring, [pitching coach Don Cooper] and others were trying to balance things. It’s difficult when you’re coming in. You don’t want to change things that worked in the past.
‘‘I think we’ve found a balance, and hopefully that pays some dividends.’’
The Sox can’t help but have one eye on the minors, where the prospects who came in exchange for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton are the rebuilding blocks.
One of them, right-hander Michael Kopech, started his season for Class AA Birmingham with a 10-strikeout performance in 4„ innings Friday.
‘‘Strikeouts are always fun, but my approach was more to work on my off-speed stuff,’’ he said. ‘‘I was trying to put people away with fastball-slider, and it worked.’’
According to MLB.com rankings, Kopech is the No. 5 prospect in the Sox’ system and No. 16 overall.
‘‘Everybody is keeping tabs on them, and we’re really happy they’re doing well,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘General manager Rick Hahn is checking off the boxes, making sure they’re working on the things they have to work on so once they get here, there’ll be a certain level of confidence. And when they get here, you’re still checking off boxes.’’
Zero meant success
The Sox’ relievers didn’t allow an earned run in the first four games, a first since 1983 for the team.
The bullpen worked 13„ innings in the first four games, allowing five hits and striking out 14.
The first runs came when Nate Jones gave up a two-run homer to Miguel Sano in the eighth Sunday.
‘‘We talked about that in spring training, not necessarily about how many innings relief pitchers throw, but making sure they do the best they can to generate outs,’’ Renteria said.
‘‘I think Coop talked to them about attacking the zone, so they’ve been putting a lot of balls in play.”
Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.