White Sox

Five years later, Nate Jones recalls a near-jinx experience in Philip Humber's perfect game

Five years later, Nate Jones recalls a near-jinx experience in Philip Humber's perfect game

The last thing any baseball player wants to do is "jinx" a teammate's perfect game or no hitter by uttering those forbidden words. But there's another way someone could play into that longstanding superstition, which White Sox reliever Nate Jones almost did back in 2012. 

Friday marked the five-year anniversary of Philip Humber's perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, and the 31-year-old Jones is the only current White Sox player who was at Safeco Field that day. Back then, Jones was only a few weeks into his major league career, and he almost committed a perfect game faux pas from the bullpen.

"I think it was the fifth inning, because at that time I didn't have a defined role, I could come in at any point," Jones said. "So around the fifth inning, I started getting up and stretching between innings, which usually takes me into our inning when we're out on the field. 

"So before that inning started, Hector Santiago was like ‘Hey Nate, why don't you sit down.' I'm like, ‘Nah, I'm good, I'm just stretching.' He's like, ‘No, sit down.' And once he said it the second time, I'm was like, uh oh, something's going on. 

"I sat down and looked up at the scoreboard and I was like, oh gosh. Luckily I didn't screw that up. I didn't jinx it with my stretching."

Humber only needed 96 pitches to retire all 27 Mariners batters he faced, with catcher A.J. Pierzynski leaning heavily on the right-hander's unhittable slider. Humber ended his historic afternoon with a controversial strikeout of Brendan Ryan -- who pleaded to home plate umpire Brian Runge that he checked his swing on a 3-2 slider -- and was rapidly mobbed by his teammates. 

For Jones and the rest of the White Sox relievers, there was a logjam trying to get down the stairs from the left field bullpen onto the field to go join the dogpile on the pitcher's mound. Jones remembers Santiago, who's now with the Minnesota Twins, taking an adrenaline-fueled shortcut. 

"He went from the bullpen bench and jumped the fence (while) we were trying to rush down the steps," Jones said. "And he was the first one out. 

"It was an unbelievable feeling to make that and to celebrate what he had done, even though we didn't really do anything. But to celebrate what he had done and what the defense did and what A.J. did behind the plate, that was an awesome experience."

Added Jones: "That's the fastest I ran in a long time, that's for sure."

There's nothing comparable in sports to witnessing a perfect game develop. There's a swell of intensity as the players, coaches and fans begin to realize what's happening, and by the eighth and ninth inning, every pitch is thrown with the pressure of Game 7 of the World Series. 

For Humber, success was fleeting -- he was dropped from the White Sox rotation less than four months after his perfect game, and never made it back to the majors after posting a 7.90 ERA in 2013. But that doesn't take the shine off his perfect game, which will endure in White Sox history and the memories of everyone who was there five years ago. 

"That was something else," Jones said. "It's something I'll never forget, that's for sure." 

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

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USA TODAY

White Sox catcher Welington Castillo will reportedly be suspended 80 games for use of PED

For the first time since new rules came into effect in 2005, the White Sox will reportedly see a major league player suspended for violating baseball’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welington Castillo, the team’s biggest offseason addition, will be suspended for 80 games, according to a pair of reports.

Manager Rick Renteria said after Wednesday's win over the visiting Baltimore Orioles that he couldn't comment on the reports. Castillo played in Wednesday's game, during which the news broke.

"For me, those at this particular moment are rumors," Renteria said. "MLB is the one that is in charge of that type of stuff. Until they release anything officially I can’t really comment on that."

The veteran catcher, slashing .267/.309/.466 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games this season, was brought in over the winter to help the rebuilding White Sox in both the short and long term. He had a career year offensively and defensively in 2017, and he was acquired to help develop a young pitching staff featuring big pieces of the future like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and also to swing a solid bat and help this young team learn how to win.

If Castillo proves productive over the course of his two-year deal, the White Sox have a team option that could keep Castillo on the South Side for the 2020 season. That could make him a piece of the puzzle for when the rebuild reaches its apex and the team is ready to start contending for championships. But this news has the potential to change that dramatically.

Zack Collins and Seby Zavala are both having strong offensive seasons at Double-A Birmingham and figure to be the long-term answers behind the plate. But Castillo’s absence from any long-term picture could leave the White Sox without a veteran safety net in the years ahead, depending on how the team decides to react to this news now and in the coming seasons.

Castillo’s absence for the next 80 games could also have an impact on the development of aforementioned pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. Lopez, in particular, has been throwing really well this season, and Giolito has control issues to work through, as he leads the American League in walks. Without the veteran catcher brought in to help those guys transition to the major league level, how will the transition change for those two pitchers?

Omar Narvaez would be the logical choice to take over as the No. 1 catcher. As for who could take Castillo's place on the major league roster, the options are limited. Kevan Smith, who was edged out by Narvaez for the backup-catching job in spring training, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, placed there Tuesday. The aforementioned Zavala is also injured at Double-A Birmingham, and it seems far too early to rush Collins to the big leagues. Alfredo Gonzalez is a catcher on the roster at Charlotte. A spot on the 40-man roster would need to be freed up to bring him to Chicago.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: What should be the plan to call up the White Sox prospects?

SportsTalk Live is on location for White Sox Authentic Fan Night. Phil Rogers (MLB Network), Mark Carman (WGN Radio), David DeJesus and Ozzie Guillen join Kap to talk about Manny Machado Mania, Anthony Rizzo’s struggles and the White Sox plans for calling up their best prospects. 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: