Sox Drawer: How Humber got here

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Sox Drawer: How Humber got here

During spring training, I went up to Philip Humber at his locker and joked with him that he was the forgotten man on the White Sox pitching staff. All off-season, his fellow starters were grabbing all of the headlines:

John Danks had signed a 65 million extension, Gavin Floyd was rumored to be on the trading block, Chris Sale was moving from the bullpen to the rotation, Jake Peavy was coming back from his lat muscle surgery.

What about Humber?

He almost made the All-Star team last year, going 8-5 with a 3.10 ERA before the break. Shouldn't people be talking about him?

Humber laughed and said, "I like being off everybody's radar."

He's not anymore.

Saturday, Humber threw the game of his life, dealing a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, becoming just the 21st pitcher in the history of major league baseball to accomplish one of the rarest of feats.

Every one of those men have their own unique story as to how they reached that point in their careers. However, few took the journey that Humber did in cementing his name forever in baseball lore.

Drafted by the Yankees in the 29th round of the 2001 MLB draft, the Texas native chose to play college ball at Rice University instead. It would be the first of many twists and turns in the baseball career for Humber, once a cant-miss prospect thought to be a Porsche, who would soon find himself treated like a Pinto.

Hed help Rice win its first national championship in 2003. Hed be drafted by the Mets in 2004 as the third overall pick, one selection behind Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, nine ahead of Jered Weaver.

He was making baseball look easy. Way too easy.

When I got drafted by the Mets, I kind of just assumed Id make a few starts in the minor leagues and just get my 10-15 year career in the big leagues, Humber said in an interview last season. I didnt realize how hard it is to actually get here, and on top of that how much harder it is to stay.

He wouldnt stay long.

Thrown into the fire of a late-September pennant race in 2007, Humber made his first major league start against the Nationals, and gave up five runs in four-plus innings. Humber didnt lose the game, but the Mets eventually did, not to mention a seven-game lead in the final three weeks of the season to the Phillies.

That winter, the Mets lost something else: their faith in their former No. 1 pick.

Humber was shipped off to Minnesota in the blockbuster trade for Johan Santana. The hot shot prospect who didnt seem to have a ceiling would soon be headed towards baseballs basement.

The Twins would designate him for assignment after one season. The Royals waived him next, followed by the Athletics.

I wasnt having fun with baseball, Humber recalled.

But while pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico in 2009, the light went on for Humber when he finally decided to turn the spotlight off.

I just wanted to go forward and play for me and not think about expectations of being traded for a big-name pitcher or for being a first-round pick that hasnt panned out. I just wanted to play for the fun of the game.

You might have forgotten, but last April, Humber held the New York Yankees hitless for 6 innings in the Bronx. Looking like a guy spacing out in math class, he coasted through a lineup featuring Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.

I wasnt thinking about who was at the plate and how many hits they had in their careers, Humber said. I was focused on making my pitches and as the game went on, I got more and more confident. When youre confident out there, youre able to really let your ability work. So I think that was the difference.

There was also the advice he received as a 12-year-old from Robert Ellis, a former major-league pitcher (and White Sox draft pick in 1990).

He would tell me, If I walk up and youre pitching, I dont want to be able to tell by looking at you if youre up by 10 runs or down by 10 runs. Thats kind of what Ive always tried to keep in mind. And I think it helps because the other team doesnt know if youre having a good day or bad day by looking at your body language.

Saturday afternoon, Humber had the greatest of days. The kind every pitcher dreams about.

There is very little that's perfect in this world, but on this day, one person in the world was.

Humber. Philip Humber.

The world knows him now.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

He’s evaluating his options and hopes for the best, but Zach Putnam knew it was time to speak up to the White Sox about his right elbow.  

The White Sox right-hander is on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. His options are two types of surgery, including reconstructive elbow surgery, or to rehab the injury. Putnam said he’s constantly dealt with some general soreness in the same area in which he had bone spurs removed during an August 2013 surgery. But some of the pain Putnam -- who has a 2.30 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this season -- recently has felt is beyond what he had previously experienced.

“My last two outings … I started having some pretty serious issues again that I couldn’t ignore,” Putnam said. “It’s one of those things were you’ve got to try to find the line between what you can work through and what’s typical reliever stuff and when to say something. I felt like in my opinion that it was definitely time to speak up.”

“I was having a hard time throwing strikes, losing some feeling in my fingers. It was starting to become an issue. Like I said, we are trying to address it non-surgically and hope for the best. Worst-case scenario, yeah probably end up having something done. But we are going to try to avoid that.”

Putnam has been working out, but hasn’t thrown a baseball. The current plan calls for resting his arm and letting the inflammation die down. But he could at least attempt to play catch again soon, perhaps this weekend when he accompanies the team to Houston.

“I’m just not doing baseball specific stuff,” Putnam said. “I’m not throwing right now. That may change in the next couple of days as we try to ramp it back up. We are not going to waste too much time down from throwing. It kind of defeats the purpose.”

“I’m going to continue to work on it every day and maybe start throwing for the first time over the weekend. Not totally sure. As I say, it’s day to day. Every day I come in, we try to evaluate. Meeting with team doctors every other day to try to figure out where we are at and what the next step is.”

Wrist injury has Melky Cabrera out of White Sox lineup

Wrist injury has Melky Cabrera out of White Sox lineup

The health bug struck the White Sox again on Wednesday as Melky Cabrera is out at least three-to-four days with a mild right wrist strain.

A team which has already had its depth tested faces another challenge as one of its best hitters needed an MRI after he left Tuesday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins early. Batting in the middle of the lineup all season to break up a glut of right-handed hitters, Cabrera is hitting .294/.344/.462 this season with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.

“You don't like anytime you don't have Melky in there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He's a switch-hitter, middle of the lineup -- it hurts to not have him in there. We're going to have to figure out a way to make up for that.”

Switch-hitter Dioner Navarro is hitting fifth on Wednesday as the White Sox face the Twins in the second of a three-game set.

Cabrera initially injured on June 18 in Cleveland. Though he exited that game early, Cabrera returned to the lineup the next day. He hit three homers and has a 1.018 OPS in 39 plate appearances since even though he has experienced some soreness. He re-aggravated the wrist on a swing and miss Tuesday.

“It’s difficult because I want to play, but the doctors said the best for me right now is just to take a rest for a couple of days because I have inflammation there,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “But yeah, for me, I want to play. I don’t like to be on the bench. I want to play because the team needs me and I need the team.”

The White Sox are already without Austin Jackson, who is out at least several more weeks after he had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. The club is also short three relievers as Zach Putnam is on the 15-day disabled list with neural uritis in his right elbow, Jake Petricka had potentially season-ending hip surgery and Dan Webb had reconstructive elbow surgery.

Ventura said the medical staff doesn’t believe a DL stint is warranted in Cabrera’s case.

“They're talking three or four days just to be able to get over the inflammation, things that are in there,” Ventura said. “It hurts him when he swings and misses, so it would help if he just didn't miss.”