After allowing six runs (five earned) in 5 13 innings on Sunday, Philip Humber's stats since his April 21 perfect game read like a script to a slasher movie: 48 IP, 7.50 ERA, 26 BB, 43 K, 12 HR and an opponent slash line of .280.372.523, an .896 OPS. Essentially, Humber has faced nothing but Prince Fielders, who enters Monday with an .895 OPS.
Humber is officially on notice after Robin Ventura intimated there was an ongoing discussion about the righty's future role. It could be in the bullpen, or it could be in the starting rotation -- but that's something the Sox will decide after Humber's next start, which will come this weekend in Los Angeles.
John Danks will make his first minor-league rehab start tomorrow. He may need one more, which would buy the White Sox some time to make a decision on what their roster will look like when Danks returns.
Here's the dilemma the Sox are facing: Keep Humber and send Jose Quintana back to Triple-A, or keep Quintana in the rotation, send Humber to the bullpen and demote someone to Triple-A (long-relievermop-up man Zach Stewart would be the likely candidate). The White Sox also could send Quintana to Charlotte and call up Dylan Axelrod, who's made one start this season and has been outstanding in 10 Triple-A starts.
But Quintana has had fantastic results in 22 innings spanning three starts and two relief appearances. He owns a 2.05 ERA and hasn't looked intimidated on the mound, impressive for someone who still has yet to throw an inning in Triple-A.
By the numbers, though, Quintana's early success may not be sustainable. Opponents have a batting average on balls in play of .200 against him, and his FIP -- a good predictor of future ERA -- sits at 4.14. Of course, 22 innings is hardly a large enough sample size, but the wasn't a book on Quintana when he was called up.
Unlike Axelrod, Quintana was relatively or completely unknown by most in the major leagues. But Quintana has faced Cleveland twice and succeeded in both outings. He did a fine job against Tampa Bay before Mark Wegner booted him for throwing behind Ben Zobrist. He's yet to have bad results when he's taken the mound.
It's been easy to forget Quintana is just 23 in his three starts -- he was born 15 days after Nestor Molina, who probably isn't an option for the majors at this point. But Quintana still has some things he needs to work on -- mainly, developing his tertiary offerings -- that most every young pitcher does in Triple-A. As it stands, Quintana has thrown about 70 percent fastballs and 19 percent sliders, opting for a slow curveball 9 percent of the time and a changeup 2 percent of the time.
That changeup is the pitch the Sox probably want to see Quintana develop. He throws it at an average velocity of 85 mph, only about 4 mph slower than his fastball. It's a pitch that could use some work, and it'd be more beneficial for Quintana to work on it in Charlotte than Chicago.
The best-case scenario is for Humber to work through his struggles, throw a good game against Los Angeles and keep his rotation spot. That would allow Quintana to continue to develop in Charlotte and give the Sox multiple reserves (him and Axelrod) ready to join the majors if need be.
But if Humber does need to go to the bullpen, the Sox wouldn't be wrong to try to ride Quintana's success as long as they can while hoping Humber finds himself working in relief. It's unlikely a move to the bullpen would be permanent for Humber, only lasting until he starts to see better results. When that happens, unless Quintana is doing his best Chris Sale impression, he'll probably board a plane back to Charlotte.
And don't forget about Axelrod in all of this -- if Humber needs more time in the bullpen and Quintana needs more development in the minors, he'd be a viable option to fill in.
This is a debate, though, that Humber can render moot. It'll start with a good side session in St. Louis, and then a solid outing in Los Angeles would do the trick. Quintana will face St. Louis on Tuesday, and how he handles that test will certainly play into this as well.