Michael Kopech hit 105 mph Wednesday night in High-A Salem. (WEEI.com)

Red Sox minor league notebook: Michael Kopech explains how he hit 105 mph on radar gun

Ryan Hannable
July 14, 2016 - 9:05 am
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1. Everyone knows Red Sox prospect Michael Kopech throws a hard fastball, but no one knew it was this hard. Radar guns at Salem Memorial Stadium Wednesday night recorded the right-hander throwing a pitch 105 mph -- yes, 1-0-5. Manager Joe Oliver confirmed the reading to Baseball America and Kopech told WEEI.com via text Thursday, it was the highest reading he's ever recorded. He added he topped out at 103 mph in his first outing in Salem last week. Kopech credited getting out of the heavy Florida weather and working with pitching coaches Lance Carter (Lowell) and Paul Abbott (Salem) to tweak minor things with his delivery for the recent uptick with his fastball. In the past he's been in the high-90s, hitting 100 mph on occasion. Wednesday, Kopech went five shutout innings, while scattering four hits, walking one and tying a career-high with eight strikeouts. In three minor league outings this year (one with Lowell) he has thrown 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts. He is working his way back from missing 50 games at the end of last season with Single-A Greenville after being suspended for using a performance-enhancing drug and then he missed all of spring training this year after breaking his hand in an altercation with a teammate. Although it's just three starts, Kopech is likely putting himself in the same category as Anderson Espinoza as it would be extremely difficult to see him traded at the trade deadline. 2. Cody Decker was signed by the Red Sox to a minor league deal on June 17. He reported to Double-A Portland where he currently still is. Decker, 29, has played eight years of minor league baseball and finally got eight games in the big leagues last year with the Padres. That small taste of the majors is what is driving him each and every day he spends on the field. "My goal is always the same. The goal is always to get back to the big leagues, period," Decker said. "I had a small taste of it and it's not nearly enough for me. I want to get there. I want to stay there. I just want an opportunity to do so. Right now, I got sent home for a month, which was a massive setback, one I never expected to deal with and now I have to take care of my business one thing at a time. Right now I've got an opportunity to play with this organization and I am just going to put the time in and work as hard as I possibly can. Work my ass off and put up some numbers. We'll see how things play out these next two months. It's a process. I have to be part of the process and just work. That's all there is to it. "Get in the cage, do my work, catch bullpens, take ground balls, take fly balls, be as versatile as possible, hit as many balls over the fence as I possibly can and see how things shake out at the end of the season. I have to play my ass off the rest of the way and try and win as many games and try and be as much of a positive example as I can for the younger guys that are here. This team is young and they need to see the work it takes and they all know that. There's some talented guys here." 3. Decker's girlfriend is Jenn Sterger, who is probably most known for getting suggestive text messages and voicemails from Brett Favre when he was with the Jets and she was a sideline reporter for the team. Now, Sterger is in Los Angeles pursuing an acting career. The Portland first baseman said one of most special moments of his life was when he got called up to the majors last year after seven seasons in the minors and Sterger was the first person he told. "It was wonderful last year, she was with me after my last game in Triple-A. Four years in Triple-A, never got a call up and I was a Triple-A All-Star, had like 150-something home runs -- I was down and she spent all night on the phone with me discussing what I would do next," Decker explained. "Then the next day I landed at the airport and got a phone call saying I would be going to the big leagues. She picked me up and she was the first person I got to tell. She's been through the very best and the very worst with this job with me. There were times that were really challenging because I've never really made a whole lot of money in this game. Then, there are times where it's the greatest." Added Decker: "The grind that we go through is not -- reported on. People don't know the grind that you deal with in the minor leagues. She knows now, but I don't think she ever really knew the details of what it actually can be sometimes. The hardships of the job. She's exceedingly supportive. She's my best friend." 4. After taking a leave of absence with anxiety, left-hander Brian Johnson is back pitching with the organization. He will pitch with short-season, Single-A Lowell Thursday night after two outings in the Gulf Coast League, according to a source. In those two outings, Johnson went three innings, allowing two runs (one earned) in his first outing July 4 and then went four innings, allowing one run in his most recent outing on July 9. It's great to see Johnson back on the mound as the 25-year-old has been through a lot during his professional career, including taking a line drive to the face at Futures at Fenway in 2012 and being a victim of a carjacking last October. 5. Salem third-baseman Rafael Devers has turned things around, and turned things around in a big way. After batting just .138 in the month of April, the 19-year-old has his season average up to .259, which includes batting .396 in 12 games during the month of July. This is a huge credit to Devers as it could have been very easy to get frustrated early on in the year, but he kept at it with hitting coach Nelson Paulino working on his approach at the plate and its paid off in a big way. If a deal presents itself for a strong starting pitcher, it would not be a surprise at all to see Devers' name come up in trade talks. 6. The world got to see top Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada Sunday night in the Futures Game, as he won MVP honors for his eighth inning home run. While he likely won't make a huge impact with the big league club this year, he could make an impact on the bases. Given his athleticism and speed (89 steals in a year and a half), he could potentially be a September call-up for the Red Sox and serve as a pinch-runner late in games. Something to watch in the coming months. 7. The other Red Sox representative in the game, Andrew Benintendi, has more of a shot to make an impact at the big league level this season. It would seem a promotion to Triple-A could be coming soon and then depending on what the Red Sox need in left field, perhaps he could be in Boston. A question to ponder is who will be the better hitter for the Red Sox this year -- Blake Swihart or Benintendi? It's also worth noting president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he has no issues with a player skipping Triple-A, although no indication has been given from the club that that's a possibility with Benintendi. 8. The Red Sox have agreed to terms with fifth-round pick Mike Shawaryn, a starting pitcher out of the University of Maryland, per a source. Terms were not disclosed as it would impact the negotiations with Jason Groome and Bobby Dalbec. The pitcher was seeking an over-slot deal after his junior season with Maryland. The hard-throwing right-hander holds five Terrapins records, including career wins (30), career strikeouts, single-season wins (13) and single-season strikeouts (138). He has a unique delivery and some view him as a potential big league starter. 9. Red Sox second-round pick CJ Chatham will make his professional debut Friday in the Gulf Coast League. He's been in Fort Myers rehabbing from a broken thumb discovered during his physical with the team. It's unknown how many games he will play in the Gulf Coast League before potentially joining Lowell. 10. Red Sox 20th-round pick and son of bench coach Torey Lovullo, Nick Lovullo got a taste of Double-A this past weekend when he was called up to take the spot of Moncada, who was in San Diego for the Futures Game. The Holy Cross product went 3-for-9 with a run scored and his dad was very excited for his son in the Red Sox clubhouse Saturday. It was a short taste as he was sent back to Lowell at the end of the weekend, but the youngest Lovullo is batting .277 in 20 games with the Spinners.