Philip Humber made his return to the starting rotation Tuesday night. It wasn't spectacular, but perfect game aside, all the best memories of Philip Humber are of him being unspectacularly effective. He threw strikes, and didn't compound any of his problems with extra base-runners.
In fact, it was Humber's only walk-less outing of 2012 besides the perfect game, after recording four such starts last season. The White Sox do not need Humber to be great--they never have--but they certainly need him to sop up innings, and not become a problem again.
With Pedro Hernandez starting in Boston Wednesday night, the Sox are dipping all the way to their 8th starter, and it would be a neat trick if that was the deepest they went all season. By all accounts, Hernandez is going to have a devil of a time getting through a major league bating order multiple times, so he doesn't represent an alternative should Humber, Floyd or Quintana go on the fritz.
It's a scary time, living on the edge, but it's also not supposed to last very long.
Humber can cover the Sunday start on normal rest, and Gavin Floyd has that rare type of minor pitching injury where the first day he's available to return is actually relevant.
"Gavin Floyd, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday retroactive to July 8, believes he could be ready to return Monday night to start the series opener."
That would be a delight, but also makes Wednesday's starter selection more unnecessary looking. If the Sox were willing to wait just one turn, they could get the extra rest they seek for Sale and Peavy by putting Axelrod on the mound Saturday, followed by Humber, and Floyd's return on Monday against Minnesota.
Axelrod is no sure bet himself, but is a far more proven commodity than Hernandez, who isn't even the 8th best starter in the organization, he's simply the best guy healthy and available at the moment. The last game of the All-Star break displayed management's willingness to significantly lower the win expectancy of a single contest for the sake of resting their presumably frail aces, and the carnage that engulfed the rest of the rotation serves as further motivation.
But they're also saving their best punch for an upcoming three game set in Detroit. That might be overvaluing a head-to-head matchup, especially since Mike Trout in the Angels seemed perfectly doing the White Sox dirty work for them Tuesday night. But with Jesse Crain not expected back until the next week, the starters will need to do heavy lifting this weekend.
Skewing the rotation this way puts a bigger onus on getting results. If the Sox can steal a victory because Hernandez avoids trouble--or because Boston starter Felix Doubront can't keep the ball in the yard (1.41 HR/9 IP)--than caterwauling about the risk they took washes away. If Hernandez is pummeled by an above-average offense like one would expect he would be, and giving Peavy extra rest proves pointless because he's still outclassed by Justin Verlander Friday, then this curious dive into their pitching depth could loom large.