Top White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech gave excited fans a rain-shortened glimpse Tuesday of what may be ahead.
Making his MLB debut, Kopech, 22, kept the lively Guaranteed Rate Field crowd on its feet for much of his first two innings as he struck out four, walked none and hit a batter while allowing three singles.
Welcome to the show. pic.twitter.com/QPHg8yje2g
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 22, 2018
The right-hander threw 52 pitches (35 for strikes) in the two innings, and the White Sox were cautious with their prized prospect, opting not to send him back out after a 52-minute rain delay in the middle of the second inning.
“I wanted to go a little deeper into the game,” he told reporters afterward. “I didn’t realize my pitch count was as high as it was, but either way I got to experience the debut, and it was a dream come true.”
His other descriptions of the his day: “a whirlwind” and “overwhelming.” According to the Chicago Sun-Times, he appeared genuinely moved as ‘‘the fans were a lot more engaged” than he expected.’’
Most 95+ mph pitches in a single game in @MLB this year: 79 – @Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz, 5/27#WhiteSox No. 2 prospect Michael Kopech threw 41 such pitches IN THE FIRST TWO INNINGS of his @MLB debut tonight before ? https://t.co/PJuMingTmr pic.twitter.com/Vb8mK3uLDA
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 22, 2018
Although his start was short, the day was full for those fans, many of whom crowded into the left-field corner and behind the left-field bullpen, their phones at the ready to snap pictures and shoot video of the phenom ahead of his major-league debut.
“I thought he was unbelievable, the energy,” said coach Joe McEwing, the Sox’s acting manager in place of the ailing Rick Renteria. “I’m sure he had so much adrenaline going, from walking out of the dugout leading up to his warmup. And I think it was pretty special by the fans here in Chicago to give him that applause and follow him every step of the way.
“As he was warming up, very rarely do you see three or four rows deep of people, and that’s pretty special and a pretty special feeling. He took it into the game and I thought he pitched very well, under the circumstances of his first outing. … I’m sure he tried to overthrow some pitches.”
Yet Kopech’s two scoreless innings were electric, according to the Tribune, with the crowd of 23,133 on its feet and cheering each time he got to two strikes on a Twins hitter.
“I didn’t expect that,” he said of the ovations. “It made me feel like I was in a big-time game. And I guess it was a big-time game for me. It was awesome.”
If the start was shorter than he expected, it ended with a welcome-to-the-majors moment when he struck out former MVP Joe Mauer to close the second inning. Fans gave Kopech an ovation as he walked to the dugout.