Michael Kopech battles through early struggles to keep White Sox in game

A spectrum of concern was cast over the White Sox after Michael Kopech’s first-inning struggles Sunday were compounded by his tardiness in covering first base for the first out of the second inning.

But after convincing manager Tony La Russa, pitching coach Ethan Katzand a trainer that his right knee was healthy enough to remain in the game, Kopech provided enough quality with creativity and guile.

“I’ll give you an explanation that was given to me when it’s appropriate, I use it,” La Russa said. “You really want to be a productive winner, player, pitcher, there’s a huge box that you gotta check beyond the talent. It’s guts.”

Despite early control issues and a noticeable dip in velocity, Kopech pitched 5 1/3 innings of four-hit ball that allowed the Sox to rally for a 4-2 victory over the Tigers.

“Absolutely, I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Kopech, who threw his first five pitches for balls before Javy Baez hit his next pitch for a two-run homer. “Probably one of the games where I consider having my worst stuff.”

Kopech’s fastball topped out at 94 mph, about five mph slower than what he usually touches. So he leaned more on his slider and cut fastball that worked effectively.

“Working with what you got, you got to get as deep as you can to give your team a chance to win,” Kopech said. “I didn’t get super deep, but I felt like I was able to fight with what I had.”

Kopech hurt his right knee one month ago, so the Sox were concerned when he was late in covering first on a grounder by Robbie Grossman. But Kopech needed only one warmup pitch to convince them he was fine.

“When I’m out there, I don’t feel it so it’s working with what I have that day,” Kopech said. “If it’s affecting me, I don’t notice it in that moment. I’m giving what I have that day.”

Anderson lone All-Star, for now

No Sox players or pitchers were selected to the American League All-Star team, leaving shortstop Tim Anderson as the lone representative to the July 19 Midseason Classic at Dodger Stadium.

The biggest omission was pitcher Dylan Cease, who was second with 133 strikeouts and fourth with a 2.45 ERA. Cease and other players, however, could be added if other players selected decline to play.

All about the legs

Luis Robert and other Sox players were told last month to not exert themselves on outs to protect their legs from further injury.

But Robert didn’t let up Sunday as he hustled into second base on a dropped fly by Grossman and scored the go-ahead run.

Afterwards, La Russa clarified the distinction.

“Here and again there have been conversations about not running balls out,” La Russa said. “I even heard there was one guy I respect a lot on TV who said they shouldn’t play if they can’t run the ball out.

“It’s easy for you to say. You need talent out there because they have to protect themselves. For him to run it out with the game on the line, that’s what he’s got to do.”

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