White Sox-Royals: Michael Kopech to start Game 2 of doubleheader

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Kopech to start Game 2 of Sox doubleheader with Royals originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Michael Kopech is getting another start.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa announced Thursday that Kopech will start the second game of his team's doubleheader with the Kansas City Royals on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

It will be Kopech's third start of the season, the first two also coming in doubleheaders.

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In the first two instances, La Russa waited to tab Kopech as the starter until playing the preceding games, to see if Kopech would be needed in a relief role to help the White Sox grab a win. Not so this time.

La Russa was asked before Thursday's series finale against the Minnesota Twins if he was still leaning toward starting Kopech in the doubleheader.

"No, standing all over it. The lean is over," he said. "Got past the first two games (of the series with the Twins). Today, we've got Lance (Lynn), and we've got a couple guys unavailable, but we feel we've got enough pitching. We'll go with Lucas (Giolito) in the first game and Michael in the second game."

The fireballer, back after two missed seasons, has been terrific both out of the bullpen and when making spot starts for the White Sox, with a 1.61 ERA in 22.1 innings of work.

That dual role has made Kopech an effective weapon for La Russa and the White Sox and figures to make him a valuable piece of the puzzle as the South Siders chase a championship this season. Not only is it easy to envision La Russa calling on Kopech in a multi-inning relief moment come playoff time, it's also possible to see Kopech stepping into the rotation, if needed.

Right now, the White Sox rotation is one of baseball's most dominant — owners of a best-in-the-AL 2.95 ERA — and certainly isn't screaming for any change, with back-end arms Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease impressing and deepening a potentially menacing starting staff come October. But it's a long time until then, and if injuries or changes in performance do crop up, the White Sox can breathe a little easier knowing Kopech is a reliable option they can turn to.

It's unsure whether Kopech will make the jump to full-time starting duty this season or if that will wait until 2022. But as his spot starts get longer — he threw 41 pitches in three innings the first time, followed by 87 pitches in five innings in his second start, allowing just one run in each — he's showing he's capable of making that move whenever the White Sox deem it necessary.

Those continued strong performances, and an eye toward that future, make you wonder how long he can go as a starter Friday.

"Pitch count's important, it's not determinant," La Russa said. "You watch his delivery. If it's the way it's been, where the ball's coming out nice, then he can go whatever you feel the conditioning is, maybe a little farther. And if he's out of whack, maybe you cut it off some.

"He's conditioned to get us into the second part of the game, and we'll see how it all comes out for him. He had a real nice bullpen the other day where he stretched out, gained a little stamina.

"It's going to be fun to watch him, always is."

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