GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first Spring Training relief appearance by Michael Kopech also represented his introduction to the Cubs-White Sox crosstown rivalry during a 7-3 Cubs victory Friday at Camelback Ranch.
"It was the way that Soto took me under his wing today," Kopech said. "I came out there and the first thing he said was, 'Let's have fun. Let's get after it.' The way he was calling pitches and being aggressive with me behind the plate, that made me more aggressive toward hitters. We fell in line, and everything worked out the way it was supposed to work out."
Kopech prefers to start and will open the season with his 100-plus mph fastball as part of the Class A Winston-Salem or Double-A Birmingham rotation. But he's willing do whatever it takes to help the team, including pitching out of the bullpen.
At some point, the right-hander will get a chance to see the regular-season atmosphere when the Cubs play the White Sox. He received an early hint Friday.
"All I heard was, 'Kopech,' a lot. It could have been good, it could have been bad," Kopech said. "I've always taken pride in being able to block out the outside noise.
"It was more difficult today than it usually is. It's pretty intense. It's a small sample but it's kind of hard to block out some of the fans. I did a decent job of it today. But it was a pretty cool environment. It's the first time I came out of the 'pen in Spring Training as well. So I had some jitters to work out after the first batter. It felt pretty good. It was exciting."