'Phil'ing in: Humber the toast of Sox clubhouse

'Phil'ing in: Humber the toast of Sox clubhouse

Sunday, April 10, 2011Posted: 1:05 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

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.

White Sox bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

White Sox bullpen taking pride in slogging through heavy, high-stress workload

It might be figuratively held together with chicken wire and duct tape at this point, and it hasn’t been entirely effective recently. But the White Sox bullpen can’t be criticized for a lack of effort. 

Over the last four days, White Sox relievers have had to throw 19 1/3 innings. To recap: Starter Jacob Turner only lasted 3 1/3 innings Friday against the Detroit Tigers, then Chris Sale was scratched from his start Saturday after blowing up over the team’s uniforms and earning a five-game suspension. The White Sox bullpen shouldered Johnny Wholestaff duties and threw eight innings on Saturday — right-hander Matt Albers started and pitched two of those innings despite throwing an inning in the team’s last two games — in lieu of the team’s All-Star ace. 

David Robertson, who pitched a third of an inning in relief Saturday, pitched twice on Sunday (he allowed three solo home runs to the Tigers to blow the save in his second game). Nate Jones appeared in the first three games of the Tigers series, too, totaling 2 1/3 innings. 

On Monday, both Jones and Robertson were given a much-needed rest day. So Zach Duke, Albers and Dan Jennings were called upon by manager Robin Ventura to cover seven outs against the powerful Cubs lineup. Albers blew the save, but Jennings’ strikeout of Jason Heyward with the go-ahead run on second set up Tyler Saladino’s walk-off single to net the White Sox a 5-4 win. 

“We’ve picked up a lot of innings lately,” Robertson said. “Everybody’s just giving it everything they got right now. It’s obviously, we would’ve loved to have nothing but zeros go up, but that’s not the way baseball works. We’re facing a lot of good lineups. And we’ve just hung tough and tried to at least give us a chance to win. Thankfully, we’ve been very fortunate to walk off these last three games.” 

It’s not just the volume of innings that’s taxing the bullpen, though. With three consecutive walk-off wins — the first time the White Sox have done that since Aug. 4-6, 1962 — have come plenty of high-stress pitches. Over the last week, the White Sox bullpen has the highest average leverage index in baseball, and that’s with this group shouldering the generally low-leverage early innings of Saturday’s game in place of Sale. 

“The more we work, the more proud we are of what we do,” Jennings said. 

Still, this group could probably use a breather. Without an off day until Aug. 1, though, the only way to get one is to be ruled out for a game, as Robertson and Jones were on Monday. 

“Hopefully we can rotate, I know there’s some other guys that I know might need a day so maybe hopefully Nate and Robertson are really fresh tomorrow and we can build off that,” Jennings said. “(Or) maybe we can get that eight, nine, 10-run win where we can kind of sit back and relax a little bit, hopefully.”

Manager Robin Ventura said he went with seniority in choosing who to cover Jones and Robertson’s innings Monday, which helps explain why he didn’t use 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer against the Cubs. Fulmer’s recent control issues — he only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes in blowing a lead against the Tigers on Friday — could’ve played a factor, too. 

“You’re trusting the guys who have been here,” Ventura said. “You’ve got some new faces that are out there, it would’ve been asking a lot to bring them in and put them in that.”

White Sox relievers have squandered leads in each of the team’s last four games, though: Fulmer on Friday, Jones on Saturday, Robertson on Sunday and Albers/Jennings on Monday. In addition to a short outing from Turner and no outing from Sale, the White Sox are missing right-handers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam from a group that looked to be fairly deep earlier in the season. 

The White Sox relief corps could certainly use a day off or at the least, as Jennings said, a blowout win where some of those young arms — Fulmer, Michael Ynoa and Tommy Kahnle — could polish off some low-pressure innings. But those easy wins have been few and far between this season: The White Sox only have three wins by more than three runs since May 14. 

So if that trend continues, this group is going to have to continue to cover plenty of high-stress innings without a break, at least for the next week. 

“Obviously the bullpen the last few days had to pick up the team, and we take pride in that,” Albers said. “Especially Nate and D-Rob were down today, shoot, they’ve been pitching every day too. Everybody else started to try to pick them up. That’s what we’re here for.” 

Cheering section of one: Melky Cabrera adds three highlight plays to the reel

Cheering section of one: Melky Cabrera adds three highlight plays to the reel

The human GIF made quite an impact on the White Sox on Monday night.

A staple of The Melky Cabrera experience the past year and a half has been the outfielder’s personal celebrations that come with every big play. Monday night’s edition included three rounds of festivities critical to the White Sox pulling out a 5-4 victory over the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cabrera got the party started almost instantly, robbing Kris Bryant of a first-inning solo home run before he patted himself on the back in only the way he does.

“I think every celebration is a motivation to try to give us a boost to our confidence and for the fans, too,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “Every time you can make a good play, it’s good for your team and for your fans to try to invigorate the confidence.”

Cabrera not only leads the team with a .303 batting average -- he’s the biggest self-congratulator of the bunch. It’s as if the GIF function was created for the sole purpose of recording Cabrera’s awkward claps or fist pumps after every big play.

On Monday, he opted to clap for himself after he robbed Bryant of what would have been his 26th homer. Cabrera said he watched the ball the entire way off Bryant’s bat and drifted back to the warning track before leaping and snagging the ball just above the yellow line on the left-field fence.

[MORE: White Sox win in walk-off fashion over Cubs]

On his way down, Cabrera landed hard on the warning track before righting himself against the wall, where he sat with each appendage sprawled in a different direction. At that point, Cabrera held up the ball to show the world he had it in his possession before he stood up and clapped for himself with both hands over his head.

“I thought after that play, things were going to be pretty good today,” said pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, the recipient of the play.

It was only the beginning.

Cabrera’s relay throw home in the third inning led to a rundown that netted an out at the plate when Javy Baez made an ill-advised decision to go home. Then in the ninth, Cabrera recorded the first out, which slowed a game-tying rally, when he fired a perfect strike to second base to throw out Bryant stretching a single into a double.

Each time, Cabrera cheered for himself without shame.

“He’s probably his own best (cheering section), but we try to keep up with him,” said reliever Zach Duke, who often views Cabrera’s celebrations from the bullpen. “It’s great. His celebrations, they’re just truly heartfelt, truly spontaneous and he has such a good time playing the game we can’t help but join in and enjoy the moment.”

White Sox: Chris Sale discusses jersey-cutting incident, suspension

White Sox: Chris Sale discusses jersey-cutting incident, suspension

One day after being handed a five-game suspension, White Sox ace Chris Sale spoke exclusively to MLB.com's Scott Merkin about the incident that led to the suspension, his desire to win with the White Sox and his future with the team.

Below are Sale's quotes from Merkin's story, which can be found here:

-- "I want to win a championship in Chicago. That's been my goal from Day 1. It has never changed. I only get more passionate about it because I know that it's not easy winning a championship. There's a lot that goes into it.

"Our main focus should be winning. I know that every single player comes in ready to win every day. I can't speak on anybody else. ... I don't think I would be traded. I don't know for sure. I don't know what they are thinking now or what's going on."

-- "Nothing else matters really. People don't talk about the guys who get paid the most. They talk about the guys with the rings and teams that won the rings. Our guys in this clubhouse deserve, in every single game, the best opportunity to go achieve that goal of winning a championship. That's why we are all here. Nothing else matters."

-- "When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue," Sale said. "I tried to bring it up and say, 'Hey listen, these are my thoughts and concerns,' and they got pushed away because of the business deal that was set in place. I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede us winning a game.

"[The '76 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing."

-- "I get you have to have the business side, and if you want us to take pictures with these things, whatever. If it's going to affect the style of play or the outcome of the game, I just thought that would be a no-brainer."

And below is a list of CSN's coverage of the Sale incident:

Chris Sale's suspension 'does not move the needle' regarding his value to White Sox

Chris Sale suspended five days by White Sox

Chris Sale will start Thursday against Cubs