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Word reached Goodyear Park early Tuesday afternoon that 20-year-old phenom Michael Kopech had given up four first inning runs in his White Sox debut at Camelback Ranch.It wouldn't be long before another new Sox pitching prospect, 22-year-old Reynaldo Lopez,...

Expect some rough going for White Sox's top pitching prospects

Word reached Goodyear Park early Tuesday afternoon that 20-year-old phenom Michael Kopech had given up four first inning runs in his White Sox debut at Camelback Ranch.It wouldn't be long before another new Sox pitching prospect, 22-year-old Reynaldo Lopez,...

Expect some rough going for White Sox's top pitching prospects

Word reached Goodyear Park early Tuesday afternoon that 20-year-old phenom Michael Kopech had given up four first inning runs in his White Sox debut at Camelback Ranch.

It wouldn't be long before another new Sox pitching prospect, 22-year-old Reynaldo Lopez, would give up a four-spot of his own in the first inning of his spring debut against the Reds.

The forgettable outings from Kopech and Lopez are irrelevant in the long run, but it's a good lesson for those who think this Sox rebuild is going to go smoothly just because Baseball America ranks the prospects high.

They're all still learning, and some of them will pick it up faster than the others.

"Pretty impressive," said reliever Zach Putnam, who is returning from a nine-month layoff from elbow surgery. "These guys make you want to be young again — watching this guy (Lopez) fling 99 (mph) in there with ease makes me feel like an old fart. Who knows what the future holds for all these guys, but I know they all have very bright outlooks."

Before Lucas Giolito pitched against the Cubs on Monday before a crowd of more than 14,000 at Sloan Park, manager Rick Renteria said: "Anybody who comes to any ballpark and they have a nice crowd, to play in front of them is exciting for all of them."

Lopez didn't have that luxury. With only a few hundred people in attendance in a crowd announced at 1,422, including vendors who begged everyone walking past to buy their food, Lopez probably could have heard himself think.

Things immediately got out of whack for Lopez when Joey Votto coaxed an eight-pitch walk to put two on with one out. Leury Garcia, playing so shallow in center field you would think he was manning short-center in a 16-inch softball game in Hamlin Park, watched Adam Duvall crunch an 0-2 pitch over his head for a two-run double.

Lopez said he unsuccessfully tried to bury a pitch in the dirt, adding: "Leury, he did what he could. It wasn't a good pitch."

Ryan Raburn then launched a mammoth two-run homer to right center that Garcia couldn't have caught unless he was playing in front of the parking lot.

After a 30-pitch first, Lopez gave up a line shot to center to start the second, and then a one-out single before leaving. He was charged with five runs on four hits over 1 1/3 innings, while Kopech served up four runs on three hits in one inning.

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

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Let's be real. There's pressure on these kids to perform after all the back-slapping general manager Rick Hahn received for the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton deals, even though Lopez said he and Giolito, his teammate on the Nationals, don't feel any.

"We just try to do our job," he said. "We have a very good relationship. We are not desperate to show what we can do because we know what we can do..

Lopez pitched 99 innings in Class A in 2015, but increased that load to 153 1/3 last year, including 44 with the Nationals. That's a big increase for a 22-year-old and he will have to be monitored closely if he remains a starter.

The debate over whether Lopez would be better off as a starter or in the bullpen is interesting, but meaningless in spring. It makes sense for the Sox to leave him a starter at Triple-A Charlotte, then make that decision down the road after David Robertson is traded.

Lopez wants to start, unless relieving means sticking with the Sox to start the season.

"I would change my mind in that particular scenario because you want to be in and stay in the majors," he said.

Nevertheless, Lopez and Giolito are likely to start the season in Charlotte, along with top prospect Yoan Moncada.

The young players are so important that Mark Grudzielanek, the new manager at Charlotte, may have to be put on Hahn's family phone plan. Grudzielanek managed Class A Kane County in 2015, but now is dealing with prospects almost ready for their close-ups.

"They're definitely a few years older and a little more experienced and polished," Grudzielanek said. "I need to get them over that hump and understand what they're in store for. Communication is really big for me, building relationships and having a good plan. They play the game at a very high level. …

"They have to understand it's not a vacation certain days. It takes hard work each and every day to get to where you want to be. That's my message."

They all will get there eventually, but days like Tuesday are going to happen.

psullivan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @PWSullivan

Caption White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox prospect Michael Kopech on his first start against the Mariners. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Rick Renteria on pitcher Michael Kopech's path this season

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses pitcher Michael Kopech's path to the major leagues this season on Feb. 28, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses pitcher Michael Kopech's path to the major leagues this season on Feb. 28, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito on his start against the Cubs. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Rick Renteria on moving on from the Cubs

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses moving on from the Cubs on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox manager Rick Renteria discusses moving on from the Cubs on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

Caption Yoan Moncada on fitting in with the White Sox

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada discusses how he's fitting in with his new team and how he plans to improve his defense on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada discusses how he's fitting in with his new team and how he plans to improve his defense on Feb. 27, 2017. (Colleen Kane/Chicago Tribune)

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