Astros give Humber chance to fight for rotation spot
Righty claimed off waivers from White Sox, signs one-year deal with '14 club option
HOUSTON -- Once word began to spread that Philip Humber had been claimed off waivers by the Astros, the text messages and phone calls from friends and family began to roll in.
"Everybody was really excited," said Humber, the former Rice University star pitcher who last season threw a perfect game for the White Sox against the Mariners.
Humber, 29, went 5-5 with a 6.44 ERA in 26 games (16 starts) for Chicago and is expected to battle for one of the final two spots in the Astros' pitching rotation. He lives with his family in Tyler, Texas, which is 175 miles north of Houston. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow delivered the news to Humber via phone earlier in the day.
"It's really exciting, more so for my family than anything," said Humber, who signed a one-year deal that includes a club option for 2014 ($800,000 for 2013, $3 million for '14 with a $50,000 buyout, according to a source). "The places I've played before, they haven't been able to see me but a little bit, but I'll be right up the road now in Houston. So we're excited about it. My wife and I have a little baby and it will make it easier on them as far as traveling and everything. I think it's going to be a good situation."
The proximity to his home is a bonus, but a move to the Astros comes with plenty of opportunity as they prepare to move into the American League in 2013.
"As far as the way things went last year -- there were obviously some extreme highs and getting hurt and not pitching the way I was capable of -- I'm excited about the opportunity to get back out there and prove I'm capable of being a good Major League pitcher," Humber said.
Humber etched his name in history on April 21 when he threw the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. His perfect game came in just his 30th career start, marking the third fewest starts in history before reaching perfection.
His life became a whirlwind after the perfecto, as Humber even made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman to do the Top 10 list. The third overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft by the Mets had resurrected his career as a starter during the 2011 season with the White Sox, when he posted a 9-9 record with a 3.75 ERA, and up through the perfect game.
Throwing a perfect game would be the highlight of any pitcher's season, short of winning a World Series. But fortunes went downhill for Humber after the moment of greatness.
In 16 appearances as a starter, Humber finished 5-5 with a 6.14 ERA over 88 innings and went winless over his last 15 starts at U.S. Cellular Field dating back to 2011. He had an 8.36 ERA over 14 innings covering 10 relief appearances.
A move to Houston gives Humber a fresh start.
"I really enjoyed living in Houston and had some relatives that lived there, so I could go down there in the summers when I was a kid and always enjoyed that area and the lifestyle," Humber said. "I got a version of that where I grew up -- Houston just like a big city in East Texas. I love the people of Houston and the food. Hopefully, the baseball is going to be really good."Luhnow, who is still on the hunt for pitching, has followed Humber since his days at Rice. "I think he's a good Major League starting pitcher, and that's what we were looking for when he came available," he said. "We believe in him. It's great he's a local kid and can come home and pitch in front of his friends and family."