CHICAGO -- A trip to the bullpen for Phil Humber is not out of the question.
Manager Robin Ventura alluded to as much on Sunday following Humber’s latest subpar outing in the Chicago White Sox’s 11-9 loss to the Houston Astros. Ventura said the only way for Humber to work himself out of his troubles is to continue to pitch.
“Whether that’s starting or the bullpen, I don’t know," Ventura said. "But it has to get better.”
While Humber’s perfect game back on April 21 put him in the record books and will go down as one of the crowning achievements of his career, in the context of this season it’s become all but a distant memory. Asking Humber to live up to any semblance of the pitcher who threw the third perfect game in White Sox history wouldn’t be fair. The Sox have only asked for progress, not perfection, and Humber has struggled to deliver. Talk about experiencing the highs and the lows all in the span of a few months.
Humber allowed three home runs on Sunday for the second time this season and lasted 5 1/3 innings after surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits. The second homer he allowed, to No. 8 hitter Justin Maxwell, traveled 461 feet and landed in Section 357 in left field.
Humber was terse in his post-game interview, saying he felt he made a lot of good pitches -- he located 59 of 86 for strikes -- and “the ones that weren’t good pitches left the ballpark.”
Ventura said he’s seen some similarities between the struggles of both Humber and Gavin Floyd.
“Very similar,” Ventura said. “It’s just one of those where they have an inning that’s good and then they have an inning when they leave it in the middle. You can’t do it with these guys. They can swing the bat, especially in hitter’s counts. First pitch, or a hitter’s count, they’re ready to swing.”
But as deflating as those home runs were for Humber, he had a moment when he appeared to settle down. He struck out five straight from the third to fourth innings and finished with nine strikeouts, which tied a season high.
Still, Humber has gone 1-4 with a 7.50 ERA since his perfect game and hasn’t won at U.S. Cellular Field since June 12, 2011. Right now, the only thing that seems certain for Humber is his next start.
“He’s still going to make that next start,” Ventura said. “It’s there. You see flashes of it, but it needs to be more consistent.”