Kopech breezes through first relief appearance

March 16th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. – threw a scoreless fourth during an 11-7 White Sox loss to the Giants on Saturday at Camelback Ranch, needing just 10 pitches to record two flyouts and one groundout.

Kopech went primarily fastball, touching 100 mph on to the scoreboard radar gun.

“I was told,” said Kopech of hitting 100. “I don’t know what my velo was. It was coming out good. I still was spraying early, but kind of settled down. I got to be a lot more aggressive coming out there for one inning. It was fun.

“It’s always different, [I'm] not exactly used to it right now. I had about 10 pitches in the bullpen before I was in the game. So getting used to going fast again is something that will be the main adjustment. Other than that, the game is still the game. Coming in with a little more fire, I guess, but other than that it’s still get the guys out.”

Although he began Spring Training as a starter, the White Sox announced Kopech’s move to the bullpen the day after Dylan Cease was traded to the Padres. Forty-three of his 103 career appearances have come in relief, including 40-of-44 games in ‘21 when he struck out 103 over 69 1/3 innings.

Closing has been discussed for Kopech, which interests the right-hander but doesn’t necessarily drive him.

“Just kind of focused on doing my job the best I can, and if that moves me to a vital role then that’s great,” Kopech said. “If not, then I keep fine-tuning everything I can to where I’m efficient out there. Today was pretty efficient and that’s the win I will take away.”

'Wins, improves, objectives'
The White Sox entered Saturday’s split-squad double loss (also falling to the Mariners, 8-2, in Peoria) with four straight victories. But manager Pedro Grifol looks at other more important factors for his team than the Cactus League win-loss record.

“I focus on the debrief after the game, what our guys critically see in each of their departments,” Grifol said. “We do use that word, wins. Wins, improves and objectives for the next day. I have a running list of the things we won for the next game.”

Grifol added there have been games where the White Sox lost on the scoreboard but had “a ton of wins.” There have been games the White Sox have won in Arizona where they’ve had more "improves" than wins.

“Things we saw in the game that we need to improve upon, or objectives we had coming in for the day that we haven’t checked yet that are incomplete,” said Grifol in explaining "improves". “I have a list of those things, guys in there running those charts, and those are critical for me.

“Things we win, things we have to improve on, that end up becoming objectives and the list of objectives we’ve completed or not completed. It’s great to shake hands after the game. I’m not discrediting that at all. But it's not something I focus on.”

Schultz gets into game action

, the No. 2 White Sox prospect and No. 50 overall according to MLB Pipeline, threw one inning during Minor League intrasquad action on the Camelback Ranch back fields Saturday for his in-game Spring Training debut.

Schultz allowed a leadoff triple to José Rodríguez, retired Zach DeLoach on a groundout to shortstop Jacob Gonzalez and then yielded a sacrifice fly to Lenyn Sosa. Edgar Quero coaxed a walk in a good plate appearance between the two, before Schultz struck out Yoelqui Céspedes.

Schultz's 2024 innings target sits at somewhere around 65-to-80, but he will break camp with an affiliate and possibly start at High-A Winston-Salem.

“He should be fine to break on time,” White Sox pitching coordinator Matt Zaleski said of Schultz. “We may have to have somebody piggyback behind him. But getting him out of Arizona is probably going to be pretty important for his psyche and everybody’s sake.”

Third to first
• Right-hander , who has not pitched in a game since Feb. 25 due to shoulder soreness, has a recovery plan in place after visiting with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

“There’s something there, but we have a plan going forward and it’s not surgery,” said Lambert, who added his shoulder has shown improvement over the last couple of weeks. “So, I’ve got a plan for the next month or so and just go from there.”

• Paul Konerko was in camp Saturday with his son. The one-time White Sox captain had a sculpture of his likeness unveiled at Guaranteed Rate Field in 2014 and had his No. 14 retired in ‘15 after spending 16 seasons with the White Sox.