Kopech welcomes normalcy; Benintendi hits 1st HR
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Michael Kopech is fully healthy and that’s more important than any statistics put up during Cactus League contests.
In Spring Training 2020, Kopech made his first start back from Tommy John surgery recovery on the last day baseball was active prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the country. In ‘21, Kopech returned to the mound as part of the bullpen, and last year, Kopech was slowed at the outset by a bout with COVID.
After having surgery to repair a right meniscus tear at the end of the ‘22 campaign, Kopech welcomes pitching as normal as possible.
“I'd like to consider it normal just because I've had so [many] ups and downs with injuries in the past,” said Kopech after striking out three over 2 1/3 innings in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday at Camelback Ranch. “I'm just ready to get back to full health and ready to help the team win.
“There's still some things that my body's getting used to. My knee is learning to get back to being 'normal,' rather than trying to find the adjustment to work around. But yeah, I feel like I'm about at that point and this is a normal spring buildup and a normal spring load and it's not as much of a rehab spring for me."
Kopech faced one batter in the third and reentered to face one batter in the fourth to make sure he got four ups in the start. He was put in that situation by a high pitch count in the first.
“Obviously, it could have been a lot cleaner. I went deep in counts repetitively,” Kopech said. “I would like to be a little bit more efficient. Clean up that first inning and I probably could have a complete third. Maybe still not have gotten through the fourth with the pitch count that I had.”
Andrew Benintendi connected on his first home run as a member of the White Sox on a 2-2 pitch leading off the bottom of the first. He called that at-bat perfect in the context of what he’s been working on of late.
“I’ve been working on trying to pull the ball to the right side in the air,” Benintendi said. “That was perfect backspin, so that was good to see.
“My approach even that at-bat when I hit the home run was line drive to left-center. Actually, my last at-bat was the at-bat I was most excited about today, hitting a ball to the six-hole.”
Benintendi is focused on what he’s trying to do and his feel at the plate, instead of results. It’s a plan he has talked about since early in Spring Training.
“Chase results in Spring Training are just going to [tick] you off,” Benintendi said. “Just stick with an approach, kind of stay inside the ball.
“For me, at least, my feedback is how I hit the ball. If it’s like topspin, that’s the last thing I want to see. I’m just trying to backspin balls and hit line drives.”
First baseman Andrew Vaughn will miss a few more days due to lower back soreness. He has not played since March 12.
“He’s day to day and we’re going to err on the side of caution,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He’s played a ton. He’s in a good spot.”
Vaughn, who has 31 at-bats over 11 games played, is listed as day to day.
“There’s no reason to push him through anything right now,” Grifol said. “I’m sure if you asked him right now if he could play, he’d say, ‘Yeah.’ He’s had a great camp. He feels comfortable at first base. We like where his swing is at. He likes where his swing is at, so we’re good.”