Fenway Park was a fitting venue for Michael Kopech to take another step forward in his comeback.
The White Sox right-hander started the second game of Chicago's doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday.
It was Kopech's first major league start since September 2018, as he missed the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 24-year-old had appeared in four relief outings for the White Sox in 2021 entering Sunday, but getting the start was an important test -- and he passed with flying colors.
Kopech retired the first nine batters he faced -- four via strikeout -- while showcasing an upper-90s fastball. He was removed in the fourth inning after walking Enrique Hernandez and allowing a hit to Alex Verdugo to start the frame, and Hernandez later scored to give Kopech a final stat line of one earned run in 3.0 innings on one hit and one walk.
It was a small sample size, but Kopech's dominant performance made an impression on Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
"Good fastball, good breaking ball," Cora told reporters via MassLive.com after Chicago's 5-1 win, which capped off the White Sox' sweep of the doubleheader. "On the mound, he was in control.
" ... The stuff is good stuff. And he knows how to use it. He goes up in the zone for chases, uses the slider down in the zone for chases. He’s a good one."
The Red Sox would know: They selected Kopech in the first round (No. 33 overall) of the 2014 MLB Draft and developed the hard-throwing hurler as one of their top pitching prospects.
Boston dealt Kopech, Yoan Moncada and two other prospects to the White Sox in December 2016 to land Chris Sale in a blockbuster trade, and after Sale helped the Red Sox win a World Series in 2018, you could argue the deal was worth it.
But Sunday was a reminder of what Boston gave up in Kopech, who appears to have serious potential if he can stay healthy.