The Michael Kopech Era in Charlotte has ended. Or, from the perspective of Chicago White Sox fans, the Kopech Wait is over.
The White Sox announced Sunday afternoon that Kopech, the ace of the Charlotte Knights’ pitching staff, has been called up to the big leagues. He’ll make his major-league debut Tuesday night against Minnesota.
Kopech, 22, and Knights’ outfielder Eloy Jimenez are the bright stars in the White Sox minor-league constellation, and Chicago fans have been waiting for months for the call-up.
White Sox officials wanted to make sure Kopech, a former Vanderbilt standout, had solved the control problems that bothered him earlier in the season. Consider that done, as you can see from his last seven starts with the Knights:
▪ 4-0 won-loss record
▪ 1.84 earned run average
▪ 4 walks
▪ 59 strikeouts
Kopech is among the highest-profile prospects to come through Charlotte in recent years, with his top-10 status among minor-league pitchers, his blazing fastball, and even his celebrity girlfriend, actress Vanessa Morgan (of The CW’s “Riverdale”).
He finished the season with a 7-7 record and had 170 strikeouts in 126.1 innings pitched. That is far and away No. 1 in the International League.
He told the Observer earlier this summer that the turnaround happened when he began trusting himself – and quit worrying about where he was rated among prospects and what others were saying about him.
“What I’ve done is I’ve kind of ignored everything I’ve heard over the past couple of weeks, started to get back into my comfort zone, and started being myself,” he said. “Because there’s really nothing else I can do.”
His last outing with the Knights, on Thursday, was an example of how Kopech has pitched recently. He went six innings in a 9-4 victory over Louisville, allowing one run, with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Here’s a look at the Knights’ past week, and the week ahead:
Monday: The Knights opened a homestand with an 8-7 loss to Buffalo. Jimenez hit a three-run homer, his 11th for Charlotte since being called up from AA in late June.
Tuesday: Buffalo slammed six home runs and 18 hits in a 14-5 thrashing of Charlotte. Charlie Tilson had two RBI for the Knights.
Wednesday: A sellout crowd of 10,211 (Charlotte’s 19th of the season) watched the Knights drop their fourth in a row, 4-2 to Buffalo. Outfielder Trayce Thompson collected three hits for Charlotte.
Thursday: The Knights trounced Louisville 9-4, behind four home runs and Kopech’s pitching.
Friday: Down 3-1, the Knights tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on Tilson’s two-run single. But Louisville won it in the 10th inning 4-3.
Saturday: It was another 10-inning game, but the Knights won this time 7-6, on Matt Skole’s RBI double. Charlotte drew 10,610 – its 20th sellout of 2018.
Week ahead: The Knights are in Norfolk, for doubleheaders Tuesday and Wednesday and a single game Thursday. The doubleheaders include makeups of rained-out games earlier this month in Charlotte. The Knights are off Friday (the Carolina Panthers have a home preseason game) and face Gwinnett in a day-night doubleheader Saturday at BB&T Ballpark, with games at 1:05 and 7:04 p.m. They host Gwinnett again at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle