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.

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox start series at Twins tonight on CSN

 

The White Sox take on the Twins on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (8-8, 2.97 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (4-8, 5.40 ERA)

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

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Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Back with White Sox, Chris Sale ready to move on from 'fiasco'

Even though he felt isolated and experienced a five-day stretch he called “a fiasco,” Chris Sale was right where he wants to be Thursday, surrounded by White Sox teammates.

Shortly after a 3-1 loss to the Cubs, the pitcher echoed the sentiments of White Sox management in a 10-minute media session when he suggested he’d like to move on from a five-game suspension for insubordination and destruction of team property.

With the trade deadline only four days away, Sale wants to stay with the White Sox and hopes the current roster gets an opportunity to win. He also thought an incident in which he destroyed promotional throwback jerseys had been blown out of proportion.

While he didn’t apologize for his actions, the left-hander said he regretted letting down his teammates and fans who attended Saturday’s game. Sale, whose record fell to 14-4 after he allowed two runs in six innings, said he plans to address White Sox players and coaches soon and intends to let them know his level of appreciation.

“I want to let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at,” Sale said. “And let them know how much I appreciate them.

“I felt like I was out on an island, really. 7 o’clock rolls around and I usually know what’s going on. Sitting at the house sucks.

“I regret not being there for my guys. I’m a pitcher. I’m called upon every fifth day and when I can’t go out there for my guys and the fans, it gets to me.”

Similar to March when he pitched a day after ripping executive vice president Kenny Williams, Sale said his focus is back on the field. He declined to answer what he didn’t like about the throwback jerseys, calling it “counterproductive.” Even though the White Sox are on the outside looking in, Sale is hopeful he and his teammates can rally and make a strong postseason push over the final 60 games.

“I think everyone is making just a little bit bigger deal of this then it really is,” Sale said. “We are here to win games and from this point forward, I think that’s our main focus. We are going to come in every day and do our jobs and try to win ballgames, that’s at the forefront.

“I don’t like people filling in for me. I love what I do. I love pitching. I love competing. I love the guys that I’m surrounded by.”

“When I let them down, it hurts me more than it hurts them.”

Three days after he suggested manager Robin Ventura didn’t properly support him, Sale declined to discuss their future relationship and again diverted the conversation back to the field. When asked what was the biggest lesson he took from the ordeal, Sale said he wasn’t quite sure.

“I know you guys are trying to get in there and you guys have to write stories and stuff,” Sale said. “I understand. But they said their side. I said my side. I’m ready to talk about baseball and playing baseball and getting back to winning and getting the Chicago White Sox into the postseason. That’s my goal. That’s my focus. Anything else, that’s for you guys.”

While he admits that his competitive side may have fed into Saturday’s events, he also knows abandoning it would hurt him on the field. Sale said he was inundated by texts and calls from teammates past and present during his absence. That only strengthened his desire to win with the current group, Sale said.

“There’s no doubt my emotions have got me to this point,” he said. “I wouldn’t be the same person without them but stuff happens. Move on. We have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’ll just push forward.

“I’m here to win. I love exactly where I’m at. I have an unbelievable group of guys in that clubhouse. We’re pulling for each other, they are pulling for me and vice versa, through and through. I’d like to stay with this group of guys and make a push for the playoffs because I love those guys.”

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

White Sox find normalcy in Chris Sale's return from suspension

The word of the day Thursday around the cramped confines of the visitor’s clubhouse at Wrigley Field was normal, as in getting things back to it with ace left-hander Chris Sale taking the mound after serving a five-game suspension for “insubordination and destruction of team property.”

A completely abnormal story — Sale cut up the 1976 throwback uniforms he didn’t want to wear last Saturday and was sent home for his actions — gave way to a relatively routine evening. Sale allowed two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts over six innings, though the White Sox lineup was shut down by John Lackey and the Cubs’ new three-headed bullpen monster in a 3-1 Crosstown loss.

“Things were pretty normal,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Guys got here, not a different clubhouse or anything like that. I think everything went fairly normal as far as him going out there and pitching and it was about baseball.”

First baseman Jose Abreu said things felt like an ordinary Sale start, even though the American League’s All-Star starting pitcher hadn’t pitched since July 18. He didn’t have his best stuff and wasn’t his sharpest, either — those three walks were his highest total in over two months — as he wasn’t able to consistently paint the corners with his explosive arsenal of pitches.

But, as usual, Sale worked quickly and kept his team in the game against one of baseball’s best offenses.

“He pitched a very good game,” Abreu said through a translator.

The Cuban first baseman added: “I think that we already moved on.”

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed.

“He gave us a great outing, we just weren’t able to score any runs for him,” Navarro said.

Before the game, third baseman Todd Frazier said he and his teammates rallied around Sale and hoped a solid outing from the 27-year-old left-hander would put the bizarre incident squarely in the rearview mirror. 

“Some mistakes are bigger than others but you gotta understand that we’re all not perfect,” Frazier said. “Things do happen in this game, different things that you think (you’ve) never seen before, and then it happens. It’s just one of those things, hopefully it goes away quick with the way he pitches."

Sale said he didn’t discuss the incident or his suspension with his teammates before the game to keep things as normal as possible. After he showed up a little after 4:40 p.m., he received hugs and handshakes from teammates welcoming him back following his five-day exile.

But after that, Navarro said things were business as usual. He and Sale went through the gameplan and got ready to face the Cubs' powerful lineup instead of dwelling on what happened last Saturday. Eventually, Sale will talk to his coaches and teammates on a personal level to “let them know where my head is at, where my heart is at, and let them know how much I appreciate them.”

With the White Sox playoff hopes flickering as the trade deadline approaches, though, Sale’s teammates are eager to keep the focus on trying to dig themselves out of a substantial, two-games-under-.500 hole.

“Everything’s in the past,” Navarro said. “He did a great job. Quality start, nothing else you can ask.”