Humber's rocky journey to perfection

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Humber's rocky journey to perfection

Philip Humber was the third-overall pick in the 2004 draft. The Mets believed he had ace potential, selecting him right after Detroit took Justin Verlander and before Anaheim took Jered Weaver.

A standout at Rice, Humber had all the credentials of a top-three pick. He struck out 422 in batters in 353 collegiate innings with a 2.80 ERA, with scouts raving about the movement on his fastball and his tight curveball.

But his pro career got off to a rough start. With A-level St. Lucie, Humber's ERA ballooned to 4.99. Injuries stunted a successful 2006 that saw his ERA fall to 2.83 between rookie ball and Double-A. With those successes in mind, the Mets fast-tracked him to Triple in 2007 despite just seven career starts at the Double-A level and two one-inning appearances in the majors.

It was in New Orleans that Humber hit a wall. His ERA was a mediocre 4.27 and he allowed 21 home runs. Those poor numbers led him to be a mere throw-in when the Twins decided to trade Johan Santana to the Mets, as the two big prizes of the deal for Minnesota were Carlos Gomez and Delois Guerra.

Humber only got worse in the Twins' farm system, as his ERA rose 4.56 in 2008. He allowed another 21 dingers that year, but his walks rose and his strikeouts fell. The same thing happened in 2009, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell to 8745 with Triple-A Rochester.

He pitched a total of 20 23 innings in the majors with Minnesota, walking 14 with just 15 stikeouts while allowing five home runs.

The Twins cut him loose after 2009, and Humber landed with Kansas City. He threw 21 23 mediocre innings with the Royals -- nothing that was going to land him a permanent spot on the team. The same team that didn't have much pitching to begin with.

Finally, in 2011, something clicked for Humber. The White Sox took a flier on him, one of those throwaway invites to minor league camp. But with Jake Peavy not ready to return to the Sox rotation until May, Humber finally got his chance -- even if his spring training performances were underwhelming.

Humber's White Sox debut is generally forgotten given how well he pitched last year. But, entering a losing effort against Cleveland in the eighth inning on April 3, Humber failed to record an out, allowing two hits and two runs before he was yanked.

He made his first start six days later, holding the Rays to one run in six innings of work. After back-to-back mediocre starts against Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, Humber finally broke out.

His April 25 start against the Yankees -- in New York, no less -- was the Philip Humber the Mets had waited for and the Twins had hoped they could resurrect. Humber took a no-hitter into the seventh, preventing the Yankees from getting a hit through 6 13 innings. The only hit he allowed broke up his no-hitter.

It was a rare bright spot in a miserable month for the White Sox. And after it, Humber went from rotational afterthought to legitimate All-Star candidate and leading reason why the Sox tinkered with a rare six-man rotation.

Humber didn't make the trip to Arizona with the best players from the American League, but he did everything in his power to make his case. In 15 starts from April 9 through July 2, Humber had a 2.57 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 25 walks.

But it looked like Humber's magic spell on the majors had worn off when August rolled around. The Sox lost his next six starts, with Humber allowing 22 runs in 27 23 innings -- a 7.16 ERA. He was K.O'd right when the Sox needed him most, taking a sharp line drive off his head Aug. 18 against Cleveland.

Humber returned Sept. 5 and made five more starts, although the end product was unimpressive (4.26 ERA, 30 K, 15 BB). He had pitches his way into the 2012 Sox rotation, but his ability to repeat 2011 was in question.

A perfect game, though. No matter what happens to Philip Humber the rest of his career, he'll be able to say he threw a perfect game. He's previously said that he's just happy to have found a steady career in the majors.

Two, three, four years ago, Humber could barely stick in the major leagues. Now, he'll stick in the record books forever.

Preview: Carlos Rodon, White Sox open final series of season vs. Twins on CSN+

Preview: Carlos Rodon, White Sox open final series of season vs. Twins on CSN+

The White Sox open their final series of the season tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Carlos Rodon (8-10, 4.08 ERA) vs. Tyler Duffey (9-11, 6.18 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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White Sox five-game winning streak snapped with loss to Rays

White Sox five-game winning streak snapped with loss to Rays

The playoffs were the ultimate goal and he probably would have liked another victory on Thursday night.

But Jose Quintana has plenty to be proud about when he takes stock of his 2016 campaign, which ended with a 5-3 White Sox loss to the Tampa Rays in front of 14,792 at U.S. Cellular Field. The first-time All-Star’s record dropped to 13-12 after he allowed two earned runs in six innings in his final start, but not before Quintana established career highs for innings pitched, strikeouts and earned-run average. The loss guaranteed a fourth straight losing season for the White Sox, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2008.

“I’m happy with my year,” Quintana said. “But every time I say it’s not about me. It’s about the team. We’ll try to finish strong in the next series against the Twins and come back next year to have a better year than this one.”

Quintana had the best individual season of his career. If he’d received any kind of run support from his teammates, he’d be at or near the top of the leaders for wins, too.

But same as he has for the past four seasons, Quintana didn’t receive any run support yet again on Thursday, though this time can be attributed to a stellar performance by Chris Archer.

Archer held down early an offense that had Quintana ranked 116th out of 132 qualified starting pitchers in run support. The White Sox only had two runners reach scoring position in the time Quintana pitched (one scored). By the time Archer slowed down, the White Sox bullpen allowed three runs and the contest was nearly out of reach at 5-1.

Still, Quintana was good enough to win yet again in a season full of comparable efforts.

He allowed a run in the second inning on a bloop RBI single by Alexei Ramirez and another in the fourth on a solo homer by Mikie Mahtook. Other than that he was his normal efficient self, striking out seven and limiting the Rays to two runs and five hits in six innings.

The effort lowered Quintana’s ERA to 3.20 (his previous low was 3.32 in 2014). He also surpassed his previous high-inning mark of 206 1/3 with 208 this season. And, Quintana, who eclipsed the 10-win mark for the first time in his career, finished with 181 strikeouts, three more than he in 2014.

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White Sox manager Robin Ventura thinks the overall production was a byproduct of the first All-Star nod for Quintana, who surpassed 200 innings for a fourth straight season.

“You wouldn’t think that would mean a lot, but it really does,” Ventura said. “I think that’s the stuff that can catapult somebody into things that are better and pushing him into the offseason, the optimistic stuff of going into next year.”

Quintana’s name often surfaces as an easy fix to some of the White Sox’ woes when it comes to next season.

With two guaranteed seasons and two club-friendly options left on his current contract, Quintana — who entered Thursday valued at 19.7 f-WAR for his career — is viewed as a stellar trade chip given the weak free agent class. It is believed the White Sox could solve several problem areas on the roster or add considerable depth to their farm system were they to make Quintana or Chris Sale available. Quintana knows the possibility exists but hopes he’s back with the White Sox next season and helping them end their postseason drought.

“I don’t have control about that,” Quintana said. “I don’t know nothing about trades. I’m here as a Chicago White Sox, and I want to be here for a long time. I’ll go home, rest and am going to be ready to start with my preparation for next year. I’ll be ready for that, but I don’t have control about trades.”