MINNEAPOLIS -- That didn't take long.
It took five batters into his first game since getting clocked on the noggin for Philip Humber to be the target at Target Field. Jason Kubel bounced a hot shot off Humber's right thigh during the second inning of the White Sox' 2-1 win against the Minnesota Twins on Monday afternoon.
Leading off the third inning, Brian Dinkelman's single up the middle almost got Humber again. All this after he had been hit in the back during his AAA rehab start he made following his time on the disabled list - the result of Kosuke Fukudome's liner off his forehead on Aug. 18.
There were smiles, laughs and wisecracks from Sox teammates, but there was no fear from Humber, who kept his focus and went on the attack himself - pounding the strike zone for first-pitch strike after first pitch strike over seven scoreless innings.
"The way they hurt you is if you put guys on without them swinging the bats,'' Humber said. "So go right at them, and see what happens.''
Humber threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced while retiring the first batter five times over his 100-pitch outing that included 71 strikes.
"Got a lot ground balls and good plays by our guys," he said.
For Humber, manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper, it was an encouraging performance considering the one-time first-round Mets draft pick and Sox reclamation project had been tailing off after a first half that put him in the All-Star Game conversation. He had allowed four runs in a five-inning rehab start last Tuesday for AAA Charlotte.
"I definitely don't take anything for granted,'' Humber said "And not just getting hit but with the success I had in the first half and then hitting a rough patch there. It was like, 'OK, am I ever going to pitch a good game again?' So you become more thankful for every chance you get."
Humber's collected manner, pitching in the town where Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson once warned him about his his skittish behavior on the hill, was a refreshing reminder of how far Humber (9-8, 3.45) has come this season. He is two-thirds of an inning shy of his minor-league high, has a very good chance to be a double-digit winner and a fixture in the Sox rotation next season and beyond.
"It's been a solid year but we've got work to do,'' Cooper said. "He's got starts left. If the season ended now I would say, 'boy it's been a great year for him.' But we're looking to enhance it.''
"I want to prove it every time I go out there,'' Humber said. "However many chances I have left, from here on out to the rest of my career, the way I look at it is everyone here has something to prove every time you go out there. That's the mindset I take."
After Sergio Santos allowed a run in the ninth in relief of Matt Thornton, Chris Sale got the final out for his sixth save as the Sox stopped a four-game losing streak in the first half of a day-night doubleheader.
"We needed Phil to come out the way he did today,'' Guillen said, "for the ballclub, bullpen and a doubleheader, we need this type of game to try to get it going and build some confidence.
"It seemed like he got it back after the time off and seemed he was stronger once again.''
Humber's teammates flinched when he got hit again. When they saw he was OK, "you couldn't help but laugh,'' Gavin Floyd said.
"He need a screen out there,'' Guillen said.
In the dugout, Humber held out his glove and said, 'anybody want this? I don't need it.' ''
The direct hit with AAA Charlotte was "just a ground ball in the back,'' he said. "I'm covering all my bases. The lower half, back, head. Hopefully I'll get a glove on them.''