Phil Humbers move from the White Sox starting rotation to the bullpen hasnt left the veteran pitcher with his head down.
Humber pitched a scoreless inning in Tuesdays loss in his first relief appearance of the season, two days after he was moved to the bullpen. Though hes not a neophyte in terms of relief pitching -- Tuesday was his 27th career appearance --Humber doesnt have any visions of stealing jobs from closer Addison Reed or setup man Brett Myers.
But he doesnt have any qualms with whatever role manager Robin Ventura assigns him. On Tuesday, Humber entered the game with the White Sox down by three runs. His task was simple: keep the White Sox down by three runs.
Theres not a meaningless job in the bullpen, Humber said. Of course everyone looks at the closer, everyone looks at the setup guys. But the guys that are pitching when were down in games is important, too, because now youre protecting those guys that are pitching the games when youre up.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Humber could pitch in a variety of roles for the club, including the potential to make a few spot starts if needed. Ventura also lauded Humber for the way he has handled the transition. Humber said on Wednesdays hes excited to see what different roles in which the team uses him.
Hes handled it professionally, Ventura said. Thats part of the job. It doesnt mean anyone has to be happy about it. He is able to put it aside and still do whats best for the team. Hes good enough to be able to (pitch in several roles). In some ways, he could be doing other things. And this is what we need him to do right now.
Humber said hes not concerned he would need to stretch out if the team asks him to start again this season, a scenario which could very well play out with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana nearing or having surpassed their career highs for innings pitched in a season.
But Humber also maintains hes not preoccupied in the quest to return to the White Sox starting rotation.
At this point youre as stretched out as youre gonna be, Humber said. Im not coming in every day thinking I need to make sure Im ready to start if they need me in a week or 10 days. Im focused on, If I get in there tonight, Ive gotta be ready to go tonight. The position our ballclub is in, every game means something. Regardless of what role youre in, as a starter or in the bullpen, its important.