Despite desire to start, Michael Kopech embracing role in White Sox bullpen

Michael Kopech would love to be a part of the White Sox’ rotation. But he knows what the Sox starters are doing and is enjoying his role to help them hold leads.

“To come in and be able to pitch behind them and maintain that lead that they kept us with whenever they came out, I think that’s just as rewarding,” Kopech said. “I think we’ve got one of the best five-man rotations in baseball right now, if not the best. I know that’s bold, but I think we’ve shown that.

“I don’t think any time that someone steps on the mound for us that it seems like, ‘All right, we’re going to have to battle today.’ I think we have the potential to dominate everybody we play.”

Sooner or later, Kopech could get his chance in the rotation, but for now he’s a key weapon in the bullpen for the Sox and manager Tony La Russa.

Kopech has retired the last 12 batters he’s faced, with seven coming on strikeouts. He hasn’t allowed a run over his last seven games, and said he’s feeling more explosive since coming off the injured list.

He’s also found himself pitching in high-leverage situations, like Sunday afternoon’s perfect eighth.

“Pitching wherever they need me is a relief,” Kopech said. “I like going out there and getting to be competitive in late innings. But ‘whenever they need me’ is kind of my mindset right now. My last few have just been later. It’s been cool.”

No regrets
Carlos Rodon was named to his first all-star team but didn’t pitch at Coors Field so he could rest and save his arm for the second half. Rodon relished the experience and said the honor of being an all-star is a “big deal,” but was keeping his eye on other team-oriented prizes.

“We all have a common goal here,” Rodon said. “I think the well-being of the team is more important than individual honors. Those are nice, I think our goal is the postseason and that’s what we are trying to focus on.”

Rodon’s seven innings Sunday moved him to 96 2/3 this season. Over the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, he threw a total of 42 1/3.

“That break was much needed,” Rodon said. “It’s been a while since I pitched to an all-star break and after an all-star break. I think I needed that for my body. I think it will do well in the second half.”

Lopez’s goals
Reynaldo Lopez was once considered part of the rotation of the future. Now, he’s trying to contribute in any way he can.

“My goal right now is just to help the team to win games,” Lopez said through a translator. “It doesn’t matter what role. Whatever spot they want to use me, I know I have to perform and do the best that I can do. I’m not looking to be a starter or reliever; just looking to help this team in whatever role they need me.”

Optioned on March 22, Lopez had spent the entire season in Charlotte, compiling a 1-6 record and 7.62 ERA. But the Sox still brought him back, and he threw two scoreless innings Friday in his 2021 debut and could work during Monday’s doubleheader.

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