Kopech adjusting to 'learning curve' of relief

Keuchel strong in final spring tuneup; La Russa pays tribute to Bell

March 29th, 2021

made his sixth appearance out of the bullpen during the White Sox 7-4 win over the D-backs on Sunday at Camelback Ranch.

Despite allowing two runs on two hits and one walk in the sixth inning (before throwing more pitches on the side), Kopech, who has been a starter throughout his career, feels much more comfortable pitching in relief than he did at the beginning of Spring Training.

“Everything still feels good,” Kopech said. “But I have to execute pitches, and I don't feel like I did a great job of that today.

“With that being said, the bullpen role is about that, it's about getting ready quick, getting out there and doing what you've got to do. So it's still kind of a learning curve for me to be ready that quick. That's not an excuse. It's just me letting you know.”

Kopech, who is Chicago's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, talked about the importance of commanding all of his pitches beyond his high-octane fastball. The break on his slider is better than it has been in a long time, per Kopech, but he’s unhappy with the consistency of the pitch.

His curveball is kind of the opposite, with consistent strikes on the pitch, but not being “super sharp,” as Kopech added.

“It kind of got hit around the park today, a little bit,” Kopech said. “Not super hard, just easy for guys to put a bat on. And you never want that as a pitcher.”

Manager Tony La Russa expects to be able to use Kopech for multiple innings, although if he pitches two or three innings, La Russa would give him two or three days off. Kopech has not pitched since 2018, so using him out of the bullpen will keep him fresh for the White Sox stretch drive and help build him up for a chance to start in the future.

“He’s big and strong and his arm bounces back good,” La Russa said. “That’s a lot of progress for him from the last time he pitched competitively. He’s done very well.”

“Now, it's just going out there and attacking right away. And that's really the only difference,” Kopech said. “A lot of guys are able to do that really well, and for some guys, it takes a little getting used to. Right now, I'm kind of on the fence about it, but I'm getting used to it, and I'm excited about what's to come.”

Keuchel ready for Friday
Dallas Keuchel got ready for his upcoming Friday start in Anaheim by allowing two runs over five innings against the D-backs. Keuchel struck out four, including the final two batters he faced.

“I feel like I touched on everything I wanted to do today,” Keuchel said. “My body feels like I pitched a full game, so I'm ready. I'm excited.”

Abreu shows support for Jiménez
José Abreu was sporting a red batting glove in his back pocket when he stepped to the plate in the first inning Sunday, showing support for Eloy Jiménez, his friend and teammate who is out for five-to-six months due to a ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm requiring surgery. Jiménez wears those trademark red gloves in honor of his grandfather.

La Russa pays tribute to Mike Bell
La Russa paid a heartfelt tribute to Mike Bell, the Twins bench coach who died following a battle with kidney cancer Friday at the age of 46. The White Sox manager worked with Bell when both were with the D-backs.

“I worked very closely with him for three years, three-and-a-half years, and he was outstanding," La Russa said. "As good of a player development director as I've been around. Very smart, really communicated and knew how to build relationships with players, coaches, coordinators.

“That whole family, the baseball blood that's in their veins is historic. I've gotten to know Buddy really well. I know David some. David was actually a teammate in St. Louis a little bit. They're shattered. We're all shattered that knew him. It's just no justice. I don't know how to figure it. It's very sad.”

Third to first
• Infielder Leury García, who was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with general right shoulder soreness, was feeling better on Sunday.

“It really doesn’t bother him when he throws,” La Russa said. “I think he took too many swings. I watched him when he took batting practice, hitting the ball all over the field, I think we’re fine with that.”

• Andrew Vaughn, the White Sox No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his second start in left field. He fielded a Tim Locastro double to open the game, making a strong throw in to second, and he caught a David Peralta fly ball in the third.

• Tim Anderson’s first-inning single extended his Cactus League hitting streak to seven games. He is 12-for-23 during that stretch.

• Right-hander Ryan Burr, who has an 11.88 ERA over nine Cactus League games, is not at 100 percent arm-wise, per La Russa. The White Sox manager added that Burr was being checked out by the medical staff.

• Right-hander Lance Lynn will throw around 95 pitches and six innings at the White Sox complex during the team’s day off on Monday.

They said It
“Carlos Rodón was one of the two or three brightest spots this Spring Training.” -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, on the veteran left-hander during Sunday’s NBC Sports Chicago broadcast

“Whatever that decision, he’s going to hear it first.” -- La Russa, on whether Vaughn has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster