Philip Humber said he's felt better with every one of his rehab starts. The results certainly back him up.
Recovering from a right elbow flexor strain, Humber allowed one run on two hits over six innings on Thursday as the Double-A Birmingham Barons defeated the Tennessee Smokies, 4-1, in the first game of a doubleheader.
The 29-year-old right-hander had yielded four runs total in his first two rehab starts, which lasted 2 1/3 innings and four innings respectively. Limited to 85 pitches or six innings Thursday, Humber threw 48 of 78 pitches for strikes and fanned five without issuing a walk.
"I felt good, which is the main thing -- just being healthy," Humber said. "I feel like my arm is responding well to what we've been doing. I feel like I'm in good shape."
Humber allowed both hits in the first inning -- a double to Junior Lake and a single to Justin Bour -- but was perfect after that. He retired the final 16 batters he faced to pick up his first Minor League win since 2010.
"My fastball command was probably as good as it's been all year," said Humber, who threw a perfect game April 21. "I threw a lot of strikes and a lot of well-located fastballs. My off-speed got better as the game went on. I'd have to say I'm very pleased with how it went."
Though Humber came out because of his pitch count, he felt he could have finished off the seven-inning game.
"A lot of [the recovery process] with starting pitchers is stamina. And the only way to do that is throw innings," he said. "Tonight was a good test to go out there for six innings and be able to be strong all the way through. ... I really felt strong and could've gone back out there for the next inning."
Humber had put together a 6.01 ERA in 12 starts for the White Sox before being placed on the disabled list June 17. He made his first rehab start July 1 and has compiled a 3.65 ERA in his three Minor League outings.
"I wouldn't have ever gone on a rehab assignment until I felt like I was able to pitch. ... Even from the very first start, I felt physically a lot healthier than I did when I went on the DL," Humber said.
So with Thursday's effort in the books, what's the next step for Humber on the road back to the Majors?
"I'm not sure," he said. "I'm always hoping that the next step will be back in the big leagues. I'm sure that's something that will be evaluated after the higher-ups talk about it. Hopefully, I can get back out there and pitch for the White Sox and help the team win. As of right now, we're playing really good baseball. We're in first place and it's something that you really want to be a part of."