Oklahoma City RedHawks: 14 months after perfect game, Phil Humber trying to put things back together

Phil Humber was released by the White Sox seven months after his historic game. He was picked up by the Houston Astros, but was designated for assignment six months later. Humber joined the RedHawks on May 17, but his struggles have continued.
By Rhiannon Walker, Staff Writer, rwalker@opubco.com Published: June 15, 2013
Advertisement
;

photo - Oklahoma City's Philip Humber (17) pitches during a minor league baseball game between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Iowa Cubs at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 10, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Philip Humber (17) pitches during a minor league baseball game between the Oklahoma City RedHawks and the Iowa Cubs at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 10, 2013. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City RedHawks pitcher Phil Humber rounded out a magical weekend last year by reading the Top 10 list on David Letterman's “Late Show.”

Humber received a congratulatory tweet from New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, and a call from President Barack Obama, who congratulated him on his game against the Seattle Mariners, asked him about his pregnant wife and imparted some advice on him about being a new father.

But none of those highlights could touch the perfect game Humber threw.

Humber, then a member of the Chicago White Sox, retired all 27 Seattle Mariners he faced on April 21, 2012, to become the 21st pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a perfect game.

“(Obama) is actually a White Sox fan, so I expected him to call,” Humber said. “Most of the time when guys do that, the president calls. So I had seen Mark Buehrle, when he threw (a perfect game) for the White Sox ... (and) he called him. So it's pretty neat; it's not just every day you get to hear from the sitting president.”

But those are just memories now.

Humber was released by the White Sox seven months after his historic game. The right-handed pitcher was immediately picked up off waivers by the Houston Astros, but was designated for assignment six months later after going 0-8 in nine appearances, including seven starts, with a 9.59 ERA.

Humber accepted the move and joined the RedHawks on May 17, but his struggles have continued in Triple-A.

“In the big leagues, it's all about results, and I wasn't getting good results, and so that's what happens,” Humber said. “It's happened to me before: I've been in the big leagues and come down to Triple-A and worked at it and figured some things out and got another chance. That's what you hope for.”

On Monday night, Humber put his team in a hole in the second inning and allowed the Iowa Cubs to tie the game in the fifth after the RedHawks had taken a 5-3 lead.

In 4 2/3 innings, the third overall pick by the New York Mets in the 2004 draft allowed eight hits, six runs — two of which were home runs — and three walks with three strikeouts, and he hit a batter.

“For me, it's all about being consistent,” Humber said. “I have three innings that are really good and then two innings that really aren't. You have to be consistent in order to be successful at any level, especially in the big leagues, because the margin for error is not very big, so you have to have everything together when you get up there.”

In the six games Humber has pitched in for the RedHawks, he has lost both of his starts, allowed 23 hits, 17 runs — 13 earned — five home runs, walked eight batters and only struck out 11 in 16 2/3 innings.

So why hasn't Humber been able to return to form in the last year? It's not because of a mental roadblock, Humber said, and RedHawks pitching coach Steve Webber said confidence and attitude aren't the issues either.

Webber recalled one of his first conversations with Humber regarding what needed to happen to get him back to the majors and playing at a high level.

“(We're) just working on the delivery, the synchronization of his lower and upper half,” Webber said. “It's a process. When you're trying to make changes, it takes time. It's very rare you find somebody and say ‘Hey do this' and it just clicks.