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Despite desire to start, White Sox’ Michael Kopech embracing bullpen role

Kopech would love to be a part of the Sox’ rotation. But he knows what their starters are doing and is enjoying helping them by holding leads.

Michael Kopech throws during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.
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Right-hander Michael Kopech would love to be a part of the White Sox’ rotation. But he knows what the Sox’ starters are doing and is enjoying his role to help them hold leads.

‘‘To come in and be able to pitch behind them and maintain that lead that they kept us with whenever they came out, I think that’s just as rewarding,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘I think we’ve got one of the best five-man rotations in baseball right now, if not the best. I know that’s bold, but I think we’ve shown that.

‘‘I don’t think any time that someone steps on the mound for us that it seems like, ‘All right, we’re going to have to battle today.’ I think we have the potential to dominate everybody we play.’’

Kopech might get a chance in the rotation sooner or later, but he’s a key weapon for the Sox and manager Tony La Russa out of the bullpen.

Kopech has retired the last 12 batters he has faced, with seven coming on strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven outings and said he’s feeling more explosive since coming off the injured list.

He also has found himself pitching in high-leverage situations, such as in his perfect eighth inning Sunday.

‘‘Pitching wherever they need me is a relief,’’ Kopech said. ‘‘I like going out there and getting to be competitive in late innings. But whenever they need me is kind of my mindset right now. My last few have just been later. It’s been cool.’’

No regrets

Left-hander Carlos Rodon was named to his first All-Star team, but he didn’t pitch last week at Coors Field so he could rest and save his arm for the second half.

Rodon relished the experience and said being an All-Star is a ‘‘big deal,’’ but he was keeping his eye on team-oriented goals.

‘‘We all have a common goal here,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘I think the well-being of the team is more important than individual honors. Those are nice, [but] I think our goal is the postseason, and that’s what we are trying to focus on.’’

Rodon’s seven innings Sunday moved him to 96 2/3 this season. In 2019 and 2020 combined, he threw 42 1/3 innings.

‘‘That break was much-needed,’’ Rodon said. ‘‘It’s been awhile since I pitched to an All-Star break and after an All-Star break. I think I needed that for my body. I think it will do well in the second half.’’

Lopez’s goals

Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez once was considered part of the Sox’ rotation of the future. Now he’s trying to contribute in any way he can.

‘‘My goal right now is just to help the team to win games,’’ Lopez said through a translator. ‘‘It doesn’t matter what role. Whatever spot they want to use me, I know I have to perform and do the best that I can do. I’m not looking to be a starter or reliever, just looking to help this team in whatever role they need me.’’

Lopez had spent the entire season at Triple-A Charlotte, compiling a 1-6 record and 7.62 ERA. But the Sox brought him back to the majors, and he threw two scoreless innings in his 2021 debut Friday and might pitch during the doubleheader Monday against the Twins.