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.

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox have no plans for Tim Anderson to take the same path as the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.

An hour before the Cubs announced their shocking news Thursday that the World Series hero is headed to Triple-A, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he thought Anderson’s struggles could be addressed in the majors.

Playing in his first full season, Anderson has had an up and down campaign. He leads the majors with 16 errors committed and has struggled at the plate, hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 265 plate appearances. The roller coaster ride has led to some aggravation for Anderson, who slammed his batting helmet in frustration during Wednesday’s loss. Anderson said the helmet slam was the topic of a postgame conversation he had with Renteria on Wednesday.

“I feel like this year has been the toughest year I’ve dealt with since I’ve started playing baseball,” Anderson said. “I have to keep playing, lock in and control it.

“(Slamming the helmet) doesn’t make you feel better. It’s just a little frustration. You get mad at times, but you just try to control it and keep playing.”

Anderson, who turns 24 on Friday, has had a lot to manage in 2017.

It’s his first full season in the majors. He signed a contract extension in March. Since May he’s been dealing with the loss of his close friend, who was shot to death. Throw in the on-field struggles and Renteria realizes there’s a lot with which Anderson had to deal.

“You just make the sure the perspective they’re having at any particular moment is the correct perspective,” Renteria said. “You try to make sure that the underlying frustrations he might be having, that he’s able to separate it.

“You have ups and down, they’re not always going to be in the best place mentally at times. But for the most part you address it, you talk about it because you understand it, you’ve lived all those things and you just try to give him a little insight and keep it going in the right direction.”

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Anderson made a pair of miscues in a costly third-inning Twins rally on Wednesday night.

But Renteria expressed his confidence in the second-year player, calling him one of the premier shortstops in the league.

The White Sox manager has seen Anderson make the necessary corrections after infield work with bench coach Joe McEwing. The effort and preparation have been there. Renteria just wants to make sure his player can compartmentalize and stay focused. He realizes there’s going to be mistakes from time to time and wants to make sure Anderson is handling them well.

“To say he’s not going to continue to make mistakes every now and then, yeah that’s going to happen,” Renteria said. “It’s there for everybody to see. That’s why everybody takes notice and that’s natural. I think the one thing we have to do as a staff and players also is step back and stay away from the fray of that attention and stay focused on what you have to do. Minimize how all the noise affects you and continue to play the game.”

Renteria remembers his own struggles as a young player and knows how much more scrutiny Anderson faces. Every game is televised and highlights are streamed on the internet. Any little gaffe can be magnified. Anderson admits that at times he’s dealt with frustration he’s never before experienced and it’s caught up to him. Now he just needs to learn how to cope with the stress a little better.

“Nobody wants to go through tough times and struggle,” Anderson said. “Slamming helmets is not the right way to go about it because you could get injured, so try to handle it in a better way.

“It’s been tough times and a lot of frustration, but I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. I try to balance it out and keep going.

“I’m just trying to manage it, balance it out and separate it from each other.”