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Kopech working on changeup, composure

Sox top pitching prospect lasts just one-third of inning Sunday
MLB.com @alysonfooter

MESA, Ariz. -- The White Sox are far from setting their 25-man roster and normally, the pitching would be the source of the most intrigue for a team that has jobs available and real competition among teammates.

But Sunday's results weren't going to move the needle much either way, which was good news for James Shields and Michael Kopech. Neither pitched well, but in terms of the near future, it didn't affect their regular-season destinations. Shields is still the Opening Day starter, and Kopech is still headed, at some point, to Triple-A.

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MESA, Ariz. -- The White Sox are far from setting their 25-man roster and normally, the pitching would be the source of the most intrigue for a team that has jobs available and real competition among teammates.

But Sunday's results weren't going to move the needle much either way, which was good news for James Shields and Michael Kopech. Neither pitched well, but in terms of the near future, it didn't affect their regular-season destinations. Shields is still the Opening Day starter, and Kopech is still headed, at some point, to Triple-A.

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Kopech's appearance in Sunday's 14-0 loss to the A's was supposed to be a piggyback situation, where he would immediately follow Shields and the two would account for most, if not all, of the innings. Shields pitched into the fourth, but didn't finish it. And while Kopech's fifth inning was a long one, it wasn't in the manner the White Sox mapped out ahead of time.

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Officially, Kopech pitched one-third of an inning, but he also allowed seven runs -- four earned -- on three hits. One of the hits was a grand slam by Matt Joyce.

"I don't have to say it was a bad one," Kopech said. "Everybody saw it."

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As the White Sox's top pitching prospect with a fastball that regularly sits at 96-99 mph and is known to touch 100, it's unlikely Kopech's outing against the A's sounded many alarms within White Sox camp. His future is bright and he, along with several prospects, represent the best of the White Sox's long-term rebuilding plan.

But Kopech could use more refinement, which is what he'll work on when he opens his Triple-A season as the ace of the Knights' staff.

"He's a very poised young man, with a powerfully gifted arm," manager Rick Renteria said Sunday morning, before the game. "He's a special kid. You have to allow them to go ahead and go through their process of growth. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we won't be able to see him [in the big leagues] right away. But hopefully, sooner than later. He's a pretty impressive young pitcher."

The White Sox expect Kopech, acquired in the Chris Sale trade, to make progress developing his changeup, a key pitch that often helps prospects push their way into a Major League rotation. Kopech noted that during his ineffective outing against the A's, he worked in some good changeups.

"If there's anything I'm going to take away from it, it's that," Kopech said.

After his removal from the game, Kopech worked the equivalent of two more innings in the bullpen, where he "smoothed things out," he said. But that didn't completely erase his frustration from his showing against the A's.

Kopech has been trying to work on his composure when the game goes awry. He wasn't impressed with how he handled Sunday's unraveling.

"That's something I'm going to have to continue working on," he said. "I feel like I did a good job of it last year, but this spring ... my composure hasn't been there. I take responsibility for that. I'm a guy that needs to move on to the next pitch."

Instead, he senses he's spending too much time over-analyzing the situation, which is interrupting his flow.

"I think I'm too worried about making every single pitch perfect right now," he said. "I know there's a lot to take from that."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLBs.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Chicago White Sox, Michael Kopech