Chicago Sun-Times


Righty throws three innings in spring debut, is confident he’ll be set for first home series

- Twitter: @MDGonzales MARK GONZALES

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Michael Kopech hit 98 mph on a fastball in the first inning that struck out Mickey Moniak. Later, he went to the bullpen to stretch his pitch count after throwing three perfect innings Sunday in his spring debut.

There’s more fine-tuning ahead for Kopech, who otherwise looked impressive as he builds toward preparing for his first start against the Giants in the White Sox’ first home series starting April 3.

“I feel I’m where I should be,” Kopech said after throwing 37 pitches against the Angels and pushing past the 45-pitch mark after a brief bullpen session. “I had enough consistent­ly with stuff and velocity to build over time. I can be more consistent with getting ahead of guys, but happy with my first one.”

Kopech’s highly touted career has been marked by injuries and inconsiste­ncy as he enters his second season as a full-time starter. Coping with a right meniscus tear that required offseason surgery factored largely into bringing him along slower than the rest of the rotation.

And he’ll have enough time to work on other specifics, such as throwing his changeup more frequently, building stamina and becoming more accustomed to the pitch clock.

“In hindsight, I had plenty of time,” Kopech said in regards to the new Major League Baseball rules that require pitchers to start their delivery within 15 seconds after receiving the ball from the catcher. “I could have slowed down if I needed to. I was trying to make sure I stayed in control of it and didn’t let it control me.

“There’s a little bit of give and take there. I think it’s something to be played around with. I’m happy with how I was able to control that time, but I can give myself a little bit more.”

After Kopech threw two balls to Jordyn Adams with one out in the third, catcher Seby Zavala visited the mound to tell Kopech to take a deep breath and pace himself.

“I was kind of having a thought of

the clock in the back of my mind,” Kopech said. “I was trying to work quickly but at the same time not overwork myself. I just got to get used to it.”

Kopech said he threw only one changeup but plans to employ it more often in his upcoming starts. He also didn’t throw a curve, but he felt very encouraged by his fastball and slider, which helped him produce soft contact.

Kopech said he started to experience some fatigue during his third inning, as evidenced by falling behind on 2-0 counts to the first two batters.

“Not that I was completely gassed, but I could tell I was getting tired and pulling off [pitches],” Kopech said. “I had to find adjustment­s. It was good to go back out and work on some other stuff and grind. Grind might be a stretch, but to get back to myself. I started pulling off some stuff, and I found it again.”

Manager Pedro Grifol merely hopes Kopech stays healthy while building stamina. The knee discomfort limited him to 25 starts and 119„ innings in 2022, but Kopech hopes he’s ready a few days before his first start against the Giants.

“It’s a team sport, so get ready March 30 and we got to take care of Houston first,” Kopech said. “Everybody does the part to pull on the same end of the rope, and hopefully by that home opener I’ll be able to do my part. We are all looking forward to Houston.”

 ?? JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES ?? Michael Kopech threw 37 pitches while recording nine consecutiv­e outs in his first spring start. He threw more in the bullpen to stretch his count.
JOHN ANTONOFF/SUN-TIMES Michael Kopech threw 37 pitches while recording nine consecutiv­e outs in his first spring start. He threw more in the bullpen to stretch his count.
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