If you were in Safeco Field on April 21, 2012, you may have thought, as Philip Humber did, that he had it all going.
Humber, then starting for the White Sox, threw a perfect game against Seattle in his second start of the season
“I thought, `Is this really happening?’ ’’ Humber said. “Then I thought I can continue to dominate in this league.’’
There was reason to believe. He’d given up one run in his first two starts of the season, that following on a 2011 season in which he’d gone 9-9 in his first full big league season. Lots of pitchers find it in their late 20s, and maybe he was one of them.
Then came his next start. He was crushed for nine runs in five innings against the Red Sox, and the fall to earth was sudden. He was 4-5 with a 7.39 ERA the rest of the year, ultimately settling into the bullpen. He went to the Astros last year and was 0-8 with a 7.90 ERA.
“I told my wife after the season that that might be it,’’ Humber said. “I said there was a chance no one would call.’’
Several teams did, and the A’s landed him. There’s a huge upside with very little risk for Oakland.
“He’s been perfect at times and not perfect, too,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Saturday on the first day of workouts for A’s pitchers and catchers. “He can start, he can relieve. He’s going to compete for a job here.’’
While that may sound a little trite, it wasn’t meant that way. The club has the need for a pitcher who can eat up innings in relief and make the occasional spot start, and Humber can do that. And the A’s are not the Astros.
“This is a very good team with deep pitching,’’ Humber said. “I told (pitching coach) Curt Young that `You don’t need me, but I want to help you at whatever way I can. I’d like to be a small part of what’s going on here.
“Last year (statistically) didn’t look good, but I could see things finally getting better. And this game is all about confidence.’’
Humber had a 4.74 ERA and no losses in August and September for the Astros, never giving up more than two runs in an appearance. That’s not eye-popping, but neither is it 7.90.
The A’s have liked Humber for a long time. They took him when the Royals put him on waivers in December of 2010, but about a month later, the A’s needed roster space and the White Sox picked him up.
–Melvin had many words of praise for some of the pitchers he saw throw Saturday in the first set of bullpen sessions.
He singled out Evan Scribner, who was up and down with the club last year, and two newcomers, starter/reliever Josh Lindblom, who was in Texas, and Fernando Nieve, who pitched in the minors after being picked up last August from Cleveland.
“Evan had the ball screaming out of his hand,’’ Melvin said. “Josh threw the ball very well and Nieve, he has a great live fastball. If he comes up with a breaking ball, I think we would see him here.’’
–Reliever Drew Pomeranz didn’t throw Saturday after having some problems with an ingrown hair on his leg.
–Setup relievers Sean Doolittle (right calf) and Ryan Cook (right shoulder) threw on the side Saturday. Doolittle could pitch in a week or less. Cook will need a little longer.
–Melvin continues to talk up lefty Tommy Milone for the rotation. He said it wasn’t fair that Milone was being considered the odd man out and that Melvin looks for the moment as having six starters, although only five will make the roster.
–Melvin said there will be an increased level of defensive drills for the pitching staff, one area where he said the club could use some improvement.
–First baseman Daric Barton said the only teammates he believed would go head-first down and icy hill in the Olympic skeleton were catcher John Jaso and first baseman Brandon Moss. “Sure I would,’’ Jaso said. “I’ll do anything once. But would Mossy?’’ To which Barton replied, “I think he’s crazy enough to try.’’