News

White Sox’ Kopech taking wiser approach 2nd time around

GLENDALE, Ariz. — This will be the second major-league camp for right-hander Michael Kopech, the White Sox’ top pitching prospect. And it will be the first one he approaches with the right mindset.

Kopech is the first one to admit that. Last season, with only Class A experience on his resume and just two months removed from coming to the Sox with Yoan Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, Kopech tried to make a big splash from Day 1.

RELATED STORIES
White Sox’ Nate Jones holding nothing back, starting now
White Sox’ culture change ‘something that can last’

“I would say I’m a lot more comfortable this year,’’ Kopech said after working out Tuesday, a day before pitchers and catchers report to spring training at Camelback Ranch. “Last year I was pretty eager — I’m still eager — but I was trying hard to impress really early and probably went a little overboard. The whole year was me trying to make it to the big leagues, trying to make it to the big leagues, looking too far ahead. And so now I’m taking it day-by-day, one step at a time, and I feel more comfortable doing that, trusting the process.’’

Michael Kopech warms up at the White Sox baseball spring training facility last February. (AP)

Kopech pitched most of 2017 at Class AA Birmingham, posting a 2.87 ERA and striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings. After his promotion to Class AAA Charlotte, he struck out 17 and walked five with a 3.00 ERA over 15 innings in three starts.

Along the way, Kopech was learning how to pitch with an arsenal that includes a 95-99 mph fastball, a hard 86-90 mph slider and an improving changeup. Pitching coach Don Cooper said  Kopech didn’t have to throw the ball through a brick wall to prove his worth.

“I was worried about the wrong things in my bullpens, trying to throw hard in my second bullpen of the spring rather than working on hitting quadrants,’’ Kopech said of his first camp last year. “I’m always going to be a guy who has velocity but control is something that needs to be worked on day in and day out. I’ve really taken that into consideration.’’

Kopech arrived at camp Monday. He is scheduled to throw his first bullpen session Wednesday. When he throws his first pitch for the Sox will be a hot topic of conversation all season. The best bet could be in the middle of the season after more grooming at Charlotte.

This and that

Prized outfield prospect Luis Robert’s locker is waiting for him, situated between fellow Cubans Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada. Robert, 21, is expected to open the season at Class A Kannapolis or Winston-Salem.

Until the first round of cuts sends prospects to camp, the major-league clubhouse will be tight for space with 66 players. It is the largest number in recent memory  in camp.

Third baseman Jake Burger, the Sox’ first-round draft choice in 2017, was among a sizable hitting group at Camelback Ranch. “I’m a little nervous,’’ Burger said of his first camp, “but excited.’’ Burger said veteran players have helped him feel comfortable. Among those hitting Tuesday: Tim Anderson, Nicky Delmonico, Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson.

Avisail Garcia’s salary arbitration case was heard Tuesday. The All-Star, who made $3 million in 2017, asked for $6.7 million and the team offered $5.85 million. A decision is expected Wednesday.

Individual game tickets to 2018 White Sox home games go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. March 2.

Follow me on Twitter
@CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com