GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The shoulder length blonde hair that is one of several noticeable similarities between Michael Kopech and Noah Syndergaard is no more.
Earlier this month, the White Sox prospect cut down a mane he’d grown for more than 18 months at the request of his new employers. But uncertain how much they wanted him to remove, Kopech said he went to the barber shop four times in a span of several weeks, including three after SoxFest.
“My girlfriend was harping on me to get it trimmed,” Kopech said. “I got it trimmed right before SoxFest. I say trimmed, it was a lot. I cut about three or four inches off and then right after SoxFest, Rick (Renteria) gave me a call and ‘That wasn’t short enough.’
“I went through that whole process again. I kept thinking about how much they wanted me to cut off. So at first I went to the barbershop and got a little cut off and thought, ‘You know what, this probably isn’t enough.’ So I went back again two days later and thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t enough either.’ So I went back again. I went to the barbershop three times in a week.”
When the deed was finally done, Kopech posted a picture of his new haircut on social media and noted “If you’re not sitting … I encourage you to do so.” White Sox teammate Tim Anderson commented that Kopech looked like “Sunshine” Ronnie Bass of ‘Remember the Titans’ fame. Kopech — who was acquired from Boston in December in the Chris Sale trade — has begun to adjust to his new hairstyle. He also told reporters earlier this week he probably won’t grow his hair as long again.
“You’ve got to get used to the short hair thing,” he said.
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Kopech is also making adjustments on the field in his first week of big league camp.
The right-hander, who reportedly touched 105 mph on the radar gun last July, is very excited to be in big league camp for the first time. Some of that energy has resulted in Kopech “trying to throw the s*** out of it” with every pitch, pitching coach Don Cooper said. Cooper loves Kopech’s arm but said he wants his young charge to focus on fastball command, not trying to blow it by everyone.
Kopech said he’s started to heed the message and knows how important command of all his pitches will be.
“He was basically putting my mind at ease saying, ‘Hey, you're not going to win anything right away, just get settled in, get comfortable,’” Kopech said. “That's something I'm going to have to grasp the concept of.”
“Coop's preached fastballs away, gloveside. That's something I'm hit or miss on. I've been working on it quite a bit. I can go inside to a right-handed batter all I want, but going away, really hitting that location is big for me. Locating my changeup, being consistent with that is also going to be helpful. Because that's the next best pitch in baseball, other than a well-located fastball.”