Sunday, April 10, 2011Posted: 1:05 PM
By Brett Ballantini
When Phil Humber woke up on Saturday morning, it was like any other day for the young righthanderaside from the jitters accompanying his third-ever major league start (first with the Chicago White Sox) and an incessantly-buzzing cell phone piling up with well-wishing texts from friends and family.
By the time he went to bed after a 4-2 triumph after some modest and heartfelt celebration, Humbers prospects on the South Side had leaped ahead by bounds.
READ: Humber makes his best pitch, hurls gem over Rays
It's exciting, Humber said. I was going out there trying to get the team a win. It wasn't about me, it was about the Chicago White Sox. I was thankful I was able to go six solid innings and continue from there.
I couldnt have been any happier for Phil in his first start here, catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. His first start with the White Sox, to come out in Chicago and to throw the way he did was awesome. Im so happy for him. Hes a great guy and has great stuff. He always just needed an opportunity, and hes going to get it here for a little while. So, we will see what he can do.
In a strange twist of fate, one of Humbers career starts came against the White Sox, in the first game of last years bizarro night doubleheader at Kansas City. He battled through a rough 5 23 innings in that game, giving up nine hits and five earned runs, but Kd six Chisox and earned the 6-5 win. In his one earlier start, a Sept. 26, 2007 start for the New York Mets vs. the Washington Nationals, Humber escaped without a loss but was scraped a bit, throwing four innings and giving up six hits, five earned runs, and two walks against no strikeouts. For his career heading into yesterdays effort, Humber was 1-0 with a 9.31 ERA and 2.17 WHIP.
I've had plenty of chances, said the former No. 3 overall pick (2004). It's just relaxing and allowing yourself to get out of the way. A lot of times, I put too much pressure on myself.
WATCH: Humber's reaction on the first start of his career for White Sox
So really, theres no real explanation for how the former first-rounder performed so beyond expectations with his gem of a win. In the spring, after all, Humber pitched mostly well enough not to lose, rather than going out and stealing the No. 5 rotation spot with a golden Cactus League.
His biggest thing is in spring training he has been behind in the count and having to pitch in, Pierzynski said. But today he was ahead of the count and he was able to use his curveball, which is one of the better curves Ive seen. He threw some good changeups to get some outs. He moved the ball around with his fastball. He established his fastball enough to make his curve ball effective.
There was only one righthander against me in the lineup, so I threw my changeup quite a bit and used the curveball when I needed to, Humber said. I located the fastball and didn't shake A. J. off but once or twice.
Now, the White Sox are left with the delightful proposition of slowing down Jake Peavys minor league rehabilitation if need beas well as having a sneak ace in the No. 5 hole of the rotation.
If they give me the ball, I'm going to go out there and do the best I can with it, take it one day at a time, Humber said, looking toward next Friday vs. the Los Angeles Angels. If I get another start, then I'll treat it the same way.
Suddenly, rather than being tucked away on a minor league bus, lucky to get a sentence-long mention on a major-league scoreboards Farm Report, Humber finds himself on sports highlights coast-to-coast and is the toast of the White Sox clubhouse. But in case you think Humber was happy with just a six-inning win, think againthe college ace has higher expectations.
You can go a complete game or something like that, he said, laughing over whether his win was as good a game as he could imagine having. It could have been better, pitch a shutout or something like that. But I wasnt thinking about results, other than I want to throw at least six or seven. Having A.J. back there helps you relaxhe knows what hes doing, hes been around a long time, and hes faced the same lineup two games already. It was fun.
If there was anything Humber was thinking of as he gritted his teeth and focused through the best game of his major league career, it was those people who were with him in the tough times, now around to celebrate the good.
Hopefully a lot of people got to see the game, on a weekend and everything, Humber said. Its been kind of a long road to this point, but its made me better as a person and a player. So Im thankful, basically.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.