White Sox

Humber's rocky journey to perfection

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Humber's rocky journey to perfection

Philip Humber was the third-overall pick in the 2004 draft. The Mets believed he had ace potential, selecting him right after Detroit took Justin Verlander and before Anaheim took Jered Weaver.

A standout at Rice, Humber had all the credentials of a top-three pick. He struck out 422 in batters in 353 collegiate innings with a 2.80 ERA, with scouts raving about the movement on his fastball and his tight curveball.

But his pro career got off to a rough start. With A-level St. Lucie, Humber's ERA ballooned to 4.99. Injuries stunted a successful 2006 that saw his ERA fall to 2.83 between rookie ball and Double-A. With those successes in mind, the Mets fast-tracked him to Triple in 2007 despite just seven career starts at the Double-A level and two one-inning appearances in the majors.

It was in New Orleans that Humber hit a wall. His ERA was a mediocre 4.27 and he allowed 21 home runs. Those poor numbers led him to be a mere throw-in when the Twins decided to trade Johan Santana to the Mets, as the two big prizes of the deal for Minnesota were Carlos Gomez and Delois Guerra.

Humber only got worse in the Twins' farm system, as his ERA rose 4.56 in 2008. He allowed another 21 dingers that year, but his walks rose and his strikeouts fell. The same thing happened in 2009, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell to 8745 with Triple-A Rochester.

He pitched a total of 20 23 innings in the majors with Minnesota, walking 14 with just 15 stikeouts while allowing five home runs.

The Twins cut him loose after 2009, and Humber landed with Kansas City. He threw 21 23 mediocre innings with the Royals -- nothing that was going to land him a permanent spot on the team. The same team that didn't have much pitching to begin with.

Finally, in 2011, something clicked for Humber. The White Sox took a flier on him, one of those throwaway invites to minor league camp. But with Jake Peavy not ready to return to the Sox rotation until May, Humber finally got his chance -- even if his spring training performances were underwhelming.

Humber's White Sox debut is generally forgotten given how well he pitched last year. But, entering a losing effort against Cleveland in the eighth inning on April 3, Humber failed to record an out, allowing two hits and two runs before he was yanked.

He made his first start six days later, holding the Rays to one run in six innings of work. After back-to-back mediocre starts against Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, Humber finally broke out.

His April 25 start against the Yankees -- in New York, no less -- was the Philip Humber the Mets had waited for and the Twins had hoped they could resurrect. Humber took a no-hitter into the seventh, preventing the Yankees from getting a hit through 6 13 innings. The only hit he allowed broke up his no-hitter.

It was a rare bright spot in a miserable month for the White Sox. And after it, Humber went from rotational afterthought to legitimate All-Star candidate and leading reason why the Sox tinkered with a rare six-man rotation.

Humber didn't make the trip to Arizona with the best players from the American League, but he did everything in his power to make his case. In 15 starts from April 9 through July 2, Humber had a 2.57 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 25 walks.

But it looked like Humber's magic spell on the majors had worn off when August rolled around. The Sox lost his next six starts, with Humber allowing 22 runs in 27 23 innings -- a 7.16 ERA. He was K.O'd right when the Sox needed him most, taking a sharp line drive off his head Aug. 18 against Cleveland.

Humber returned Sept. 5 and made five more starts, although the end product was unimpressive (4.26 ERA, 30 K, 15 BB). He had pitches his way into the 2012 Sox rotation, but his ability to repeat 2011 was in question.

A perfect game, though. No matter what happens to Philip Humber the rest of his career, he'll be able to say he threw a perfect game. He's previously said that he's just happy to have found a steady career in the majors.

Two, three, four years ago, Humber could barely stick in the major leagues. Now, he'll stick in the record books forever.

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

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AP

Remember That Guy: Rob Mackowiak

Not too many players from the Chicagoland area make it to the Majors. Oak Lawn’s Rob Mackowiak did. And he even made his way to the South Side to play for the White Sox.  

After attending South Suburban College in South Holland, he was a 53rd round pick of the Pirates in 1996. That’s something that could never exist today. The MLB Draft capped at 50 rounds in 1998, then lowered again to 40 rounds for 2012.

Mackowiak, primarily an outfielder but also occasionally seeing infield duty, worked his way through the minors from 1996-2001. He suited up for the Lynchburg (VA) Hillcats, the Augusta (GA) GreenJackets, the Altoona (PA) Curve and the Nashville Sounds before debuting for Pittsburgh May 19, 2001 at PNC Park against the Brewers. His first career at-bat a strikeout against Ben Sheets. He collected his first career hit a few days later at Veterans Stadium off the Phillies’ Robert Person. His first home run came May 30th in Pittsburgh off the Marlins’ Braden Looper.

He hit .266 in 83 games in 2001, then hit 16 home runs in his first full season the following year. 2003 started out rough, hitting .183/.280/.256 through 44 games before he was able to find his groove at Triple-A Nashville. When he returned to the Pirates on August 20, he went 4 for 5 with 2 home runs. From that point on, he hit a scorching .348/.400/.609 in 100 plate appearances to finish the season.

He had as good a day as you could possibly imagine on May 28, 2004. Early that morning, his son Garrett was born. Then with the hospital band still on his wrist, he headed to the ballpark for a doubleheader against the Cubs. In Game 1, he hit a walkoff grand slam off Chicago closer Joe Borowski. In Game 2 he came off the bench in the 7th inning and hit a game-tying 2-run home run in the 9th off LaTroy Hawkins. If that wasn’t enough, he came back to terrorize the Cubs once again the next day going 2 for 4 with a home run and 5 RBI. A three-game total of 4 for 10 with a double, 3 home runs and 11 RBI (with a walk). He was named co-NL Player of the Week from May 24-30, sharing the honor with teammate Daryle Ward. He finished the year hitting .246/.319/.420 but racked up career highs in home runs (17) and RBI (75). In 2005, his final season in western Pennsylvania, he rebounded with a .272 average and .337 OBP but took a step back in the power numbers (9 HR, 58 RBI).

In 2006 he joined the White Sox in a deal sending Damaso Marte to the Steel City and hit .290/.365/.404 – career highs in BA and OBP. His first home run in a White Sox uniform was a memorable one. On May 22, 2006 the Oakland Athletics visited US Cellular Field. It was the first time Frank Thomas played a game against his formal team, and the Big Hurt delivered with a pair of home runs. Oakland was poised to win the game with a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. After Jermaine Dye homered to cut the deficit to 4-2, Juan Uribe doubled which caused manager Ken Macha to summon his closer Huston Street. Ozzie Guillen countered by taking down Brian Anderson and sending up Mackowiak, who delivered a pinch hit 2-run homer to knot the game at four. Pablo Ozuna won the game for the Sox in the 10th with a walkoff bunt scoring A.J. Pierzynski from third.

What was a solid hometown run ended at the 2007 trade deadline when the Sox sent Mackowiak to San Diego for reliever Jon Link. He finished the season with the Padres and played 38 games with the Nationals in 2008 before being released in June. He tried to catch on with minor league stints with the Reds, Mets & Indians in 2008-09 but he never made it back to the show.  He did hit .323/.418/.545 with 14 HR in 82 games with the independent Newark Bears to finish 2009.

Rob Mackowiak’s 8-year MLB career featured a respectable .259/.332/.405 slashline with 64 home runs and 286 RBI in 856 games. In 197 games with the White Sox, he hit .285/.360/.411 with 11 HR and 59 RBI. After his baseball career Mackowiak briefly worked as the hitting coach for the Windy City Thunderbolts (Frontier League). Later, he coached his son’s little league teams and worked as an instructor at Elite Baseball Training in Chicago.

A 53rd round pick. An unforgettable introduction to fatherhood. A Chicago Major League homecoming. Rob Mackowiak’s story is a special one.

Lucas Giolito goes to injured list, Sox bring Carson Fulmer and Ryan Cordell up from Triple-A

Lucas Giolito goes to injured list, Sox bring Carson Fulmer and Ryan Cordell up from Triple-A

Lucas Giolito will miss some time after straining his hamstring in Wednesday's game.

The White Sox placed the right-handed starting pitcher on the 10-day injured list ahead of Thursday's series-opener in Detroit. They also brought up relief pitcher Carson Fulmer and outfielder Ryan Cordell to take the roster spots of Giolito and outfielder Daniel Palka, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday night.

Giolito exited Wednesday's start after just 2.2 innings after tweaking his hamstring on a third-inning pitch. He was doing quite well in his second start of the season against the Kansas City Royals, with five strikeouts and no hits allowed before his early departure.

Giolito spoke with reporters Thursday morning in Detroit, saying the strain isn't too serious and that he expects to miss just one or two starts.

As for who will start in Giolito's stead, that remains to be seen. His turn in the rotation won't come until Monday's game that begins a series against the Baltimore Orioles. Fulmer arriving from Charlotte, however, points to Manny Banuelos being taken out of the major league bullpen to start in Giolito's place. Banuelos has had success as the White Sox long man so far this season, with a few effective multi-inning outings under his belt. Fulmer hasn't made a start since the White Sox moved him to the Charlotte bullpen last season but could serve as a replacement long man in the short term. This is Fulmer's second call-up this season, he was on the roster for one day earlier this month, pitching three innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meanwhile, Cordell arrives to take the place of Palka, who picked up his first hit of the season Wednesday after starting in a dreadful 0-for-32 slump. He was sent down after the game with the task of figuring things out at the Triple-A level. While the White Sox could have opted to slide Adam Engel into an everyday role in the big league outfield, it appears Cordell might get his shot at more frequent big league playing time. He was in the starting lineup for Thursday's game against the Tigers. Cordell made the Opening Day roster but only got six at-bats (homering in one and doubling in another) and was sent down to receive some more regular playing time, which he might now get in the majors.

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