Michael Kopech on recent great starts on White Sox Talk Podcast
Kopech reveals talk with Grifol helped recent turnaround originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
To say Michael Kopech had a tough start to the season would be a massive understatement. But Kopech has been spectacular over his last two starts, and recently appeared on NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox Talk podcast to discuss his turnaround.
In his first start this year, Kopech gave up five home runs and seven earned runs in just 4.2 innings. Control was an issue and walks piled up. When the calendar turned to May, Kopech had a 7.01 ERA. Things seemingly came to a head against the Astros on May 12. Kopech was especially wild and threw only 48 of 94 pitches for strikes. He walked six batters. But the moment that had people talking the most from that start was Kopech chirping at the Astros dugout as he walked off the mound after the second inning.
“Kind of losing my temper there and then allowing that to kind of unravel in the game, to say the least, it's embarrassing,” Kopech said on the White Sox Talk podcast. “If you're going to do that, then you have to be able to separate that from how you perform. And so I realized that I was letting stuff like that kind of overflow into my work and I wasn't getting the most out of myself and I wasn't doing the best I could for this team.”
The very next day Kopech walked into manager Pedro Grifol’s office to discuss that very issue, and Kopech credits that conversation to his turnaround.
“I've talked to Pedro a lot since he's come on board to right the ship,” Kopech said. “One of the main things we talk about is being in control and being unbothered. So, being in control of my aggression, because I do have a lot of aggression when I pitch. It’s the type of pitcher I am. It's going to come right at you. But it's having control over that. Then, to be unbothered when something happens.”
Kopech rebounded for arguably his best performance as a pro after his six-walk game against the Astros. He threw eight innings of one-hit ball against the Royals with 10 strikeouts. But most importantly, Kopech kept his composure when Michael Massey broke up his no-hitter with a broken bat single in the sixth inning. Instead, he got the very next batter to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“I've had starts in the past where I've had a really good start, one hit will happen and something will kind of unravel. But that one hit didn't seem to be that big of a deal for me, even though it kind of kind of took a little bit of breath out of the game. That could have easily turned into two or three more hits or a couple of baserunners. And fortunately, we were able to get right back out of it. I think that's what the main thing that (Grifol) talks about, is just not letting things get under the surface and kind of letting things roll off.”
Taking that mentality into the Royals start was big for Kopech, but something physically clicked in for him before the game too. He felt like his timing was back on track so that he could get into a better flow and find his rhythm. As a result his control improved. Kopech followed up the Royals start with another gem: seven innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts and no runs allowed against the Guardians on Wednesday.
It’s an important development, but Kopech won’t go as far as saying he believes it represents a turning point for the rest of the year. He’s still just taking things one game at a time.
“I know that sounds like a cliche, but like I said, I've been pressing for results. I think the whole team has been pressing for results. And the more you do that, the farther away the goal seems to be when you don't get the results. So it's taking it one step at a time, but even more than that is taking it one pitch at a time. So if I can just be focused and intentional and deliberate about the work that I'm doing and then also if I can handle adversity better then it'll help me.”
Click here to follow the White Sox Talk Podcast.