Humber ready to pay his dues
Young right-hander thankful for the opportunity
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Phil Humber got a taste of the action and then a dose of reality.
The 22-year-old right-hander has been one of the hot topics in camp this spring. He's blistered through bullpen sessions and earned rave reviews for his effort, and on Sunday manager Willie Randolph rewarded him with his first appearance against Washington. Humber responded by throwing two scoreless innings, pitching his way out of a mini-jam in the seventh.
But Humber didn't have too long to bask in the glow of his one-hit, one-strikeout, one-walk performance. Shortly after the Mets sank the Nats, 14-5, Humber was called into Randolph's office and given the news he knew was coming -- he was being reassigned to the minor league camp.
"I got my walking papers," Humber said, still smiling as he walked back to his locker. "They said some very nice things about me, and I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me this spring. I got to see what it was like, and I'll be back soon. It's all up to me."
Humber posted a 35-8 mark with a 2.80 ERA at Rice, but the 2004 first-round pick didn't sign with the Mets until January. He got a $3.7 million deal, was put on the 40-man roster and invited to Major League camp, taking advantage of the opportunity with which he was presented. He's been impressive in camp, working hard, picking the brains of a few vets and generally just remaining in the background as much as possible.
So when Humber got into the game Sunday, it was as much to congratulate him on a job well done as anything. Though Humber allowed a hit to the first batter he faced, he induced a double play on the next batter, issued a walk and then got out of the inning on a grounder. Humber retired the side in order in his second inning, collecting his first strikeout.
"That was unbelievable," Humber said about his debut, before learning it would also be his swan song. "That's something I'll never forget right there. My first time on a Major League mound, I couldn't feel anything. That's why all my pitches were up [in the first inning]. I was trying to get them down, but I couldn't feel anything.
"I was actually kind of mad at myself because everything was thigh high and eventually they were going to get wood on it. I was a little better in the second inning."
Humber proved to be prophetic, saying just before he got the news from Randolph that he knew he wasn't going to be around much longer. It didn't matter.
"I don't belong with the Major League team right now," Humber said. "So I'll go down and pay my dues. I'll climb the ladder and I'll get to New York. I was in big league Spring Training and I know I can do it now."
Randolph said Humber had a big smile on his face when he came into his office despite knowing what the subject matter of the meeting was going to be.
"I said, 'What are you smiling for?'" Randolph said. "I think he was smiling because he knows he did well. It's exciting when you see a young pitcher with the stuff he has getting his feet wet. You start thinking, 'How soon can he come up?' It's pretty exciting.
"I watched him throw a few times and I was like, 'Wow.' He shows a lot of poise. He's going to be a good pitcher."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.