Sox Drawer: Humber's long road back

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Sox Drawer: Humber's long road back

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:43 a.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

If everything in life went exactly in a straight line, Phil Humber would not have been flirting with a no-hitter against the New York Yankees on Monday night. He would have been doing it for them.

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.

READ & WATCH: Dunn drops back while he waits to go deep

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 Justin Verlander, nine ahead of Cy Young frontrunner 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 by phone Tuesday. 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.

READ: Will Santos be the man?

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.

Throwing a no-hitter against the Yankees for six innings? That sounds like fun. But watching the stone-faced Humber coast through one of the toughest lineups in baseball, you wouldnt know it. He looked like a guy spacing out in math class, not throwing a no-no at Yankee Stadium against Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.

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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.

Humbers spot in the White Sox rotation is currently a rental. Hes holding down the fort until Jake Peavy is healthy enough to return. But when Humber gets sent to the bullpen or even back down to the minors again, he won't be the shiny new car in the front of the showroom getting all the attention. He'll be the stronger, wiser 28-year-old who got knocked down and battled back.

Now I have a much greater appreciation for where Im at," Humber said. "I dont try to predict the future anymore. I dont try to say, If I do well, am I going to stay? Or if I dont, am I going to get sent down? I just go up there and do the best I can and try to remain grateful for the opportunity and concentrate more on the moment.

Moments like Monday night. From favorite to underdog (or is it Humberdog?). Either way, he's showing he's got plenty of bite.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jason Benetti stops by to talk the future of the White Sox

There's a lot of buzz around the future of the White Sox.

White Sox announcer Jason Benetti joined SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss the team's exciting young prospects and how soon they'll be making their way to the South Side.

Also joining Pat Boyle on this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast are the Tribune's David Haugh, Pro Football Weekly's Hub Arkush and WGN Radio's Sam Panayotovich.

The guys also react to Mike Glennon's recent comments and Kevin White’s uncertain status at OTAs.

Plus, they wonder if Kyle Schwarber has finally found his spot in the Cubs' lineup.

Take a listen to the latest episode below:

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Jose Quintana looked as if he might be on the way to a second consecutive gem on Wednesday afternoon before it quickly took a turn for the worse.

After three perfect frames, Quintana got hit hard in the middle innings and was forced out of the contest. The Arizona Diamondbacks offense awoke from an early slumber against Quintana to complete a sweep of the White Sox, who fell 8-6 in front of 18,002 at Chase Field. The eight earned runs allowed by Quintana are the most he has yielded in a start in two years and raised his earned-run average to 4.82.

“For us it’s also a tough thing to figure because he has been so great in his career,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s something that we are not accustomed to seeing from him. But he’s a hard worker and we all know how talented he is and we’re all confident in him. I think it’s just a matter of one thing for him to clean it up and to be that Jose Quintana that we know.”

None of what transpired in the first three innings Wednesday offered any indication of what was to come. The 2016 All-Star pitcher picked up where he’d left off on Friday night in Seattle when he combined with David Robertson on a one-hitter.  

Quintana’s offspeed pitchers were diving and Diamondbacks hitters had no chance. He induced checked swing after checked swing and racked up five strikeouts in three innings and even made a smooth defensive play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt-base hit attempt to start the fourth inning with the White Sox leading 2-0.

But then it all went south.

Nick Ahmed doubled to left and red-hot Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep center to make it a 2-1 game before Chris Owings tied it with an RBI single. Things only got worse for Quintana in the fifth inning when he hit the first hitter Brandon Drury with a 1-2 pitch. Quintana then left a 1-0 fastball over the middle and Jake Lamb didn’t miss the mistake, driving it the opposite way for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Ahmed doubled in a pair and the rout was on. Goldschmidt’s single knocked Quintana from the game.

Owings had a sac fly off Anthony Swarzak to score one inherited run and Drury singled in the other to put Arizona ahead by six.

Quintana allowed eight hits and struck out seven. The eight runs he allowed were the most he’d allowed in a start since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs on April 19, 2015.

“It’s just execution,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Most times when guys are being hit around, a lot of it has more to do with executing and location. I think it’s more pitches get out over the plate. ... Based on the swings, they were pretty good swings, so I’m assuming they were pitches out over the plate.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

The poor outing raised Quintana’s earned-run average by nearly a point from 3.92. Even though it’s still more than two months until the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, Quintana’s inconsistent start to the season has also almost certainly harmed his perceived trade value. Not only has Quintana pitched poorly, but shifts in the plans of other clubs could provide contending teams with more trade options. However, with teams still focused on the upcoming draft and the deadline a way off, Quintana has more than enough time to get back on track.

Quintana said he plans to do what he’s always done — discard the tough outing and move on. It’s the same way he has operated since 2012 and it has helped become a highly regarded member of the White Sox.

“Just turn the page and keep going,” Quintana said. “It’s different feeling than last year. But I feel pretty good. Never think in the past. If you have a bad day, just keep going. Keep doing, we doing good in the past. So, just keep doing my things and throw the ball well.”

One player who has continued to stay hot for more than a month is Abreu, who blasted his 100th homer on Tuesday night. For an encore, Abreu matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that got the White Sox to within 8-4.

Melky Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the seventh inning and Abreu singled in another to make it an 8-6 game.

But the White Sox got no closer.

Leury Garcia’s solo homer in the second inning gave the White Sox an early lead. Abreu doubled in the fourth and scored on a double play to make it a 2-0 lead.

From April 19 on, Abreu is hitting .347/.404/.677 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances. He’s currently on pace for 36 home runs, which would tie the career high he established in 2014.