BALTIMORE — So much has happened since last December to Philip Humber and most of it has been good.
He took his first missionary trip to the Philippines at the end of last year, threw a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox in April and celebrated the birth of his first child, a son, a few days later.
A resident of Tyler since 2005, Humber is now part of a playoff race for the Chicago White Sox.
“So far we have put ourselves in a great position,” he said, sitting in front of his locker in Baltimore before Tuesday’s game against the Orioles. “All that means is we have a lot of work to do. There are a lot of games left, a lot of big games. It comes down to August and September.”
The White Sox were dealt a 6-0 loss to the Orioles here on Tuesday night before winning on Wednesday 8-1, but falling on Thursday 5-3. Chicago is 72-58, but is still 2 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the American League Central. The Tigers played Kansas City on Thursday night.
“I have been in a few (races) and it is exciting, more so this year since I am more a part of the team,” Humber, 29, said. “When you get down to the last week or so you start to look at the scoreboard. Every game is magnified. Right now we are trying to win every game.”
He was with the Mets in 2006 when they clinched the division and was with the team again the next season when New York blew a big lead and missed post-season play. In 2008 he was with the Twins when they just missed the playoffs and the next year Minnesota got into the playoffs late in the year.
Humber, a former standout at Rice, became the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game when he shut down Seattle 4-0 on April 21.
“It has been interesting. It is something that I would have never dreamed of happening,” he said. “I got to experience a lot of things because of it. I got to speak to a lot of people that I would not have had a chance to. It has been a blessing. A lot of cool things happened early in the season.”
But this year, despite the perfect game earlier this season, has not been an individual success for the native of Nacogdoches and a 2001 graduate of Carthage High. He went on the disabled list in June with a mild right elbow flexor strain.
He was in the starting rotation most of the first half and has made 16 starts through Tuesday for the White Sox. He made his sixth appearance out of the bullpen here on Tuesday against the Orioles and gave up five hits and two earned runs in four innings in a 6-0 loss in a game that was started by Chris Sale for Chicago.
Humber was 5-5 with an ERA of 5.93 in 22 games, with 16 starts, after the outing against the Orioles. Last year, his first season with the White Sox, he was 9-9 with an ERA of 3.75 in 28 games, with 26 starts.
“On the field it has been a struggle,” he said. “I got hurt for awhile. I have not been as consistent as I want to be or the team needs me to be. In the bullpen I am trying to help the team as much as I can when I get in there.
“It has been interesting. It is not the way I would have drawn it up. But the main thing is our team is doing well. I am thankful to be in the big leagues and especially on a good team.
“You just have to stay ready, especially in the role I am in as the long guy and sometimes at the end of the game,” he said. “There is never a time of the game to relax. You have to stay on your toes. At this point whenever they give me the call I am going to go out there and do the best I can. It is not about me. What is best for the team, I want to do.”
This has also been a challenging season for Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Josh Tomlin, who is good friends with Humber. The Whitehouse High graduate was in the rotation for Cleveland, but then went to the bullpen and was placed on the disabled list in August with a record of 5-8 with an ERA of 6.36. He had Tommy John surgery.
Humber got to know Tomlin, a Tyler native, in 2005 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Humber was making the drive on a regular basis to Tyler from Carthage and eventually decided to live there with his wife in the off-season.
The past nine months have been eventful for Humber, part of the 2003 national champs at Rice.
After last season he went to the Philippines with Unlimited Potential Inc. and was able to take part in baseball clinics for underprivileged youth. He was also able to share his Christian testimony. Also on the trip was Brett Carroll, who has appeared in five games this season with the Washington Nationals.
Then he and his wife, Kristan, who is from College Station, had their first child, John Gregory, born in Chicago on May 1.
“We will Texafied him as fast as we can,” said Humber, with a smile.
Before that, however, maybe the American League playoffs.
“There is no rule against clinching early,” he said. “These games (in late August) count as much as the ones at the very end.”
David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland and can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com.