Really, if you didn't see the bad start coming, you weren't looking at him.
"Laser show," Jim Duquette said about Humber's last week. "Doing Letterman is not your normal week, especially for Phil, especially for where he's been."
Duquette, who works as an analyst for SiriusXM and the Mets' radio network, was the general manager when the Mets selected Humber third overall in the 2004 draft from Rice University. His scouting director, Jack Bowen, selected Humber over Long Beach State's Jered Weaver (who fell the Angels at 12th) and Rice's Jeff Niemann after the Tigers grabbed Old Dominion's Justin Verlander second, a pick after the Padres did everyone a favor with their choice of San Diego high school shortstop Matt Bush.
The Mets' loved Humber's curveball, 93- to 95-mph fastball and especially his makeup. "Everything you look for at that pick," Duquette said. "He's one of the best guys I've been around."
Wayne Graham, Rice's longtime baseball coach, smiled when he opened an email from Humber last week. He liked it so much he read it to his team later.
"The reality of the perfect game is still sinking in and I'm trying to process everything that has happened as a result, but as of now I would rank the feeling I had Saturday second to winning the national championship," Humber wrote. "The culmination of a season of hard work within a team environment toward an ultimate goal is the most gratifying moment in sports. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that."
Humber beat a loaded Stanford lineup that included Carlos Quentin, Sam Fuld, Jed Lowrie, Ryan Garko and John Mayberry Jr. in the championship game of the 2003 College World Series. Graham said Humber's velocity was down and that he had been having trouble commanding his usual pitches, so he improvised.
"The pitch that really hurt Stanford was a split finger," Graham said. "He was throwing it as his changeup, and he got several strikeouts on it. We felt he was struggling with command of his curveball, and we went to a split-finger (fastball). … That game, to me, showed his aptitude for pitching."
Duquette said the one question mark with Humber coming out of Rice was his workload, not just his innings pitched but high pitch counts in some starts and being used out of the bullpen only one or two days after starts on other occasions. There was little shock when Humber's elbow blew out in his first minor league season, but disappointment followed in his recovery.
"He's one of the few guys whose full velocity never came back after Tommy John surgery," he said. "He tried to get it back and just couldn't."
By then, Omar Minaya had replace Duquette as the Mets' GM.
"I was very impressed with him," said Minaya, who hadn't seen Humber pitch until he was a pro. "I was impressed with his body. His delivery was fine, he had a very good curveball. We liked him a lot, but he got hurt. Then he could never really show us what he had because of his injury. We got a pretty good pitcher when we traded him."
Minaya was referring to Johan Santana, whom he plucked away from the Twins, who were underfinanced in the years before Target Field opened. Outfielder Carlos Gomez was the key piece in that multiplayer trade, and Humber couldn't take advantage of a change of scenery.
The Twins dropped him from the 40-man roster after 2009, and he was signed as a minor league free agent by the Royals. He established himself with a good season out of the bullpen for the Royals, but then went from Kansas City to Oakland on a waiver claim, then from the A's to the White Sox on Jan. 18, 2011.
Rick Hahn, the White Sox's assistant general manager, says the Sox were interested in lining up some depth because Jake Peavy was attempting a comeback from a torn lat. Scout Bill Scherrer had recommended Humber's low-90s fastball and curve and felt he could go from a reliever to a starter if he developed a third pitch.
A little more than a year later, that third pitch is the slider that will haunt Ryan. Duquette said he first realized Humber had picked up a wicked slider when he beat the Yankees with it in 2011.
"I said, 'What the (bleep) is that?' " Duquette said.
Ryan told the Seattle Times he still can't believe Pierzynski called for a 3-2 slider with a perfect game in the balance. He was thinking he was going to get a fastball.
"I said it to (teammate Jason) Vargas 300 times," Ryan said. "I can't believe he threw that pitch. It's a movie I'll never see the ending to."
No one knows how this ends. But you know Humber isn't going to take a single day for granted.
"It has taken me a lot longer to get to the big leagues in a meaningful role than I thought it would," Humber wrote to Graham. "The ups and downs have been worth it, and I know it has all been used to make me a better person and pitcher."
Twitter @ ChiTribRogers