Q&A: Mets pitcher Philip Humber

Philip Humber will get his first taste of the major leagues on Tuesday, as the former No. 1 draft pick was promoted from Double-A Binghamton along with several New York Mets top prospects.

A hard-throwing right-hander, Humber has rebounded from season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2005, coming back to the Double-A level stronger than before.

Over the weekend, Humber spoke with Inside Pitch's Bryan Hoch during the Binghamton Mets' series at Connecticut, discussing his return to prominence in the farm system and his possibilities for a big league call-up which has now arrived.

Has it been good to get back into the competitive spirit of a playoff race with Binghamton here, and was it something you missed?

That was something I missed last year in St. Lucie; we didn't have a very good year and I was used to, in college, always being in a playoff environment and actually playing for something. It's a lot more fun when that's going on. Instead of thinking about yourself, you're thinking about the team.

And that's part of the rehab process from an injury, you're forced to focus on yourself. Was that a change for you?

For sure. Most of the rehab stuff you do is by yourself, until you get to extended [spring training], when you get into a team setting. It's a lot more fun out there competing and playing for something than it is in the gym rehabbing or throwing in the bullpen.

Did it get lonely at times? I know you have the support staff and the coaches, but at the end of the day, it's really just you out there.

Yeah, exactly. I'm the kind of person who can deal with that. I'm pretty capable of motivating myself and not having someone push me. Sometimes it was tough.

You came back to Double-A and posted your first victory at this level. Did you add any significance to that based upon how far you came to get back here?

My goal coming into this year, when I sat down with Tony Bernazard in spring training, was that at the end of the year I wanted to be one of the guys who is being talked about that can help the big club. I think maybe I'm in that discussion now. That's really my goal. Wins and losses, there's not a whole lot I can do about that at times, except give the team a chance to win. That's when I get in trouble, a lot of times, so I just try to focus on getting myself prepared for next level and at same time have fun with this playoff race.

So it would be fair to say you set your goals well past coming back to Double-A and winning one game.

My goal all along has been to get to the big leagues as fast as I can. I had a setback because of the surgery, but I think so far I've overcome that and kind of minimized the impact of that.

A few weeks ago, Omar Minaya was at Shea Stadium and he was discussing starting pitching depth in the system. He mentioned the guys you'd usually think of, but he also threw your name in there. Did you hear about that, and how did you react?

Some people told me about it and I saw it in the papers. That's always nice to hear. It's a compliment to know that you're thought of as a guy who has possibilities of helping the big club that's great to be in that discussion this year. Next year I can really make a push to be one of the guys that's up there. For him to say that, it was flattering for him to say that.

Was it surprising?

No, I think I've pitched pretty well and I think I've shown I'm healthy. That's kind of out of my control, whether they think I'm capable right now or not. I definitely think I've shown I'm healthy and that I can make the pitches I need to, and get people out.

Has it been a quick road or a long road back from surgery?

Well, when I first started out rehab, they tell you it's going to be 12 months until you get back on a mound. But looking back, it's really flown by. I guess once I started throwing it started going by a lot faster, because there wasn't the monotony. I was building on something every day, the amount of throws or the distance I could throw. It's gone by really fast and I'm thankful I haven't had any setbacks with it. I've been able to pretty much progress as fast as the program would allow.

I remember you saying in spring training that it was your goal to "prove a lot of people wrong." Do you feel like you did?

That was my goal at that time. I was pretty fired up. The season I had the year before, I didn't feel like I showed the way I was capable of pitching. I figured there were some doubters out there that were skeptical; was this the right decision, making this guy the number one pick? I think I've done that and more. That's not my goal anymore, to prove people wrong. My goal now is to prove people right. I think I've turned the tide a little bit as far as people doubting whether I'm coming back from surgery or whether I can compete in professional baseball.

Everyone wants be a number one pick, obviously, but it is also something that never goes away. Do you feel people judge you based upon that?

No, and that's something I struggled with last year. I came in and put a lot of extra expectations on myself because of that, and I tried to live up to whatever expectations people think a No. 1 pick should be.

Which is probably different for every person.

Exactly. There's a lot of guys who weren't number one picks who have been great in the big leagues. This year, I've taken a better approach to just trying to do my best and be the best pitcher I could be, regardless of where I was picked. I don't let whatever anyone else expects of me affect the way I go about my business and the way I prepare to pitch a game.

Realistically, what do you feel your timetable is for reaching Shea Stadium?

If it's not this year, I want it to be next year. They've invited me to the [Arizona] Fall League and that's something that I think I'm going to go do, and improve on some things. There's going to be a lot of competition, if you look at the guys now and the guys coming up. I'm sure there's going to be some guys that they get in the offseason, and a lot of things are going to happen. Spring training will be a battle next year, and hopefully it'll be the World Champion New York Mets spring training. It's going to be fun and I'm going to be prepared for it. I don't ever want to have that opportunity and not be ready for it.

You were in spring training this year and, although you were on rehab, you watched as Brian Bannister surprised a lot of people and slipped into the rotation. Do you take inspiration from seeing that it can happen, even in New York?

He was my locker mate. Being around him and seeing the type of person he was, I could tell he was a fighter and regardless of what people thought about him going in, he was capable of proving them wrong. He just went out there and did it. You can't argue with the results he put up. Mike Pelfrey had the same thing happen. It just shows the Mets don't care how old you are or how much experience you have. They're going to go with the best guy, so that's encouraging.

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