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David Price's mentor now taking Michael Kopech under his wing

Rob Bradford
August 31, 2018 - 8:50 am

CHICAGO -- While Michael Kopech scurried in and around the White Sox clubhouse Thursday afternoon, attempting to prepare for Friday's start against his old team, the Red Sox, James Shields sat cooly in front of his locker.

It was no coincidence Shields' dressing cubicle was parked right next to Kopech. Sure, it was No. 33 next to No. 34. But more importantly, it was wily veteran alongside hotshot rookie.

For Shields, he had been there down that. In fact, the dynamic brought back memories. Before Kopech there was another first-round pick named David Price.

"He has always wanted to get better, always wanted to learn and try to be the best," said Shields of Price, who joined the now-36-year-old on the Tampa Bay Rays roster in 2008. "They are very similar. They are both competitive baseball players. It’s really fun to watch."

It's not apples to apples when matching up Kopech and Price, but it's close enough. And, according to Shields, he has already been struck with a fair amount of similarities.

"It’s tough to compare the two because they are two completely different pitchers. But their competitiveness and how hard each one of them work is very impressive," Shields said. "They are very similar in that respect. Kopech works his butt off every single day and tries to get better at his craft. He’s very mature for his age. He’s really trying to become a pitcher instead of a hard thrower.

"The first game he came up here he probably could have thrown 101 mph. Everyone was waiting for it. But he ended up toning it back, pounding the strike zone and was methodical with his pitches. It was impressive to watch. They definitely have a similarity as far as wanting to be the best."

From the moment Price arrived in Boston he has referenced important lessons Shields taught him, often citing the reminder posted in his locker stating "If you don't like it, pitch better." Kopech has only been in the big league team's clubhouse for a week, but there have been similar questions and answers from 10 years before.

"I don’t really think it as being a mentor. He’s one of my teammates," Shields said. "David was one of my teammates and I really embraced him when he came in as one my teammates, not just being a veteran. It was more just being a friend and being a good teammate. It’s the same with Kopech. They both bounced that stuff off of me when they first came up. It makes my life a lot easier.

"One of the things, I don’t necessarily want to say taught, but told young guys is that you’re always going to go through adversity in this game and there are going to be a lot of ups and downs and at the end of the day you can only control what you can control and what you can control is pitching better. You have to always want to learn and get better. That’s basically the motto. It sounds a little weird but at the end of the day you’re never going to stop learning until you’re done playing this game and you should always want to get better."

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