2006-09-29 / Sports

A Good Start For Humber On Comeback Trail

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

FLUSHING, NY - It was a nice surprise for Mets' rookie Philip Humber. His parents and girlfriend came to visit for the weekend and were leaving after last Sunday's game.

Manager Willie Randolph made sure they went home smiling when he made the call to the bullpen in the seventh inning of the Mets 5-1 loss to the Nationals.

"It was the top of the seventh inning," Humber said, "when they told me I was going in for the top of the ninth, I started getting ready. I was excited, man."

He wasn't perfect and some great plays from the defense helped him out, but the 2004 first round draft pick didn't let any runners cross the plate in his one inning of work.

"Probably every pitch I threw I was over anxious," he said. "But that was a big league defense out there. A lot of those plays are not made in the minor leagues. The play by (Jose) Reyes was a top 10 right there. It was fun being out there with those guys."

If Humber continues to develop like the Mets expect him to, the Amazins' will have a good time with him on the mound as well. After coming back from "Tommy John" surgery at the end of last season, he was 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in '06. His is throwing the ball in the mid 90s, which down from his senior year at Rice, but he finds it easier to pitch now.

"It's easier for me to achieve the velocity now, than before the surgery," he said. "It's easier to throw the fastball this year, probably because last year I was hurt. I feel like I am stronger and my elbow feels solid. I easier for me to get it there with less effort, so I can command it better."

In fact, the rehab also allowed the pitcher to develop a changeup. Because of the "tedious 45 feet days" where Humber was not throwing off the mound, he just started "flipping changeups" which allowed him to learn to command the pitch.

Now, the Mets didn't see that last Sunday, just because of the butterflies Humber experienced, but the 23 year-old was smart enough to pitch with sheer nerve.

"I was throwing mostly fastballs because I didn't have command of anything else," he said. "I was just trying to get it over the plate."

And after that successful outing, Humber expects to not pitch in a Mets uniform until next season.

"I can't say anything, but I was getting my feet wet," he said. "It was a fun opportunity to get out there."

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