Notes: Humber pleased with return

Notes: Humber pleased with return

TORONTO -- In the relatively brief time Philip Humber has been in the employ of the Mets, his identity has changed -- from draft pick to prospect to pitcher to patient to what he called himself last week, "a Tommy John survivor."

And now that Humber has reappeared on the club's horizon, he again qualifies for the I.D. he prefers -- pitcher. And because he does, the Mets' horizon appears a tad brighter.

The now 23-year-old pitcher they selected in the first round of the 2004 amateur draft -- he was the third player selected -- threw 67 pitches in four innings Thursday, his first in-game competition since his right elbow was repaired by Dr. James Andrews on July 19, 2005.

Though his appearance officially was termed "a rehab start," Humber saw it as the end of his rehabilitation and the resumption of his career.

"I was competing again," he said Saturday morning. "And it felt good. I felt I was at my best."

Not in terms of performance -- four runs, seven hits, a walk and seven strikeouts -- but in terms of the potential he brought to the mound.

His fastball -- 91 to 94 mph -- was back, he said, as it had been before his ulnar collateral ligament betrayed him. His curve and changeup had returned too. He lacked precision, but that was to be expected after a protracted layoff.

"I've never had trouble throwing strikes," Humber said. "But my pitches, the strikes, were up.

"First game back, I wasn't worried about that."

Or his elbow. No problems, no pain. He was on a pitch count -- 75 was his limit.

"No second thoughts," he said. "I had no doubts. I wasn't afraid to let it go."

The Mets have no specific plans for Humber. He said he heard unofficially he probably will be pitching in the Class A Florida State League, a significant step up from the Gulf Coast League (where he pitched on Thursday), before the summer is over. And whether he returns to the Double-A Binghamton Mets, for whom he made one start before the surgery, is not an issue for him.

"I don't think I ever gave a good account of myself last year," Humber said. "Now that I'm pitching again, it really doesn't matter at what level. I just want to show what I can do now that there isn't anything holding me back."

Sanchez has pinched nerve: The Mets seemingly will have Duaner Sanchez back before too long. Their top setup reliever, removed from the game Friday night after throwing two pitches, had a pinched nerve in his neck and, according to the results of two MRIs administered Saturday, no other physical problem.

An MRI exam of his shoulder was negative; another of his neck detected the pinched nerve the club characterized as "minor." Sanchez is to be in uniform Sunday.

He said he experienced tingling in his fingertips and what he called "a shock" of pain that started in his neck when he threw his second pitch.

Lo Duca leaves early: Paul Lo Duca was removed from the game in the third inning Saturday when he aggravated an injury he suffered Friday night, a bruised left thumb. Now he is listed as "day-to-day."

No room for Woody? Unless Willie Randolph wants to rest the 36-year-old legs of Jose Valentin on Sunday after the Mets second baseman has played two games on the synthetic grass of the Rogers Centre, Chris Woodward probably won't see more a few innings in the Mets' three-game series here. Woodward, who played in six seasons with the Blue Jays before signing with the Mets last year, would enjoy a day in the sun -- assuming the roof is open.

Woodward had his day here -- Aug. 7, 2002 -- when he hit three home runs in a game against the Mariners.

"And the funny thing was," Woodward said, "that that game started out as the worst game of my life. I booted the first ball hit to me and I struck out my first time up."

But Woodward hit home runs in the fifth inning, to tie the score against Joel Pineiro; in the seventh, also off Pineiro, to give the Jays a lead; and in the ninth, off Kaz Sasaki, to to tie the score again. The problem was, the Mariners won in the 10th inning.

"I was fourth up in the 10th, but we went out one, two, three," Woodward said, "so we'll never know."

And Woodward was left to recognize his feat but, because of the loss, not celebrate it.

He told Jose Reyes the story Wednesday night after the Mets shortstop hit for the cycle -- in a loss.

A first in the first: When Reyes singled leading off the first inning Saturday, he became the first Mets player to lead off six successive first innings with a hit.

This date in Mets history, June 25: The Mets won 14 of their first 21 games after Joe Torre replaced Joe Frazier as manager in 1977. But the distraction of the trades that exiled Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, and the general deterioration of the roster eventually caught up with Torre's first team. The Mets' record, 15 games under .500 when Torre took over, reached 29-37 on June 21 before the bottom fell out. The Mets lost six straight and 15 of 17.

The worst loss came on June 25 in Wrigley Field. After a home run by Ed Kranepool gave the Mets a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning, the Cubs scored four times against Skip Lockwood and Bob Apodaca in the ninth to win, 5-4.

On this date in 1984, Keith Hernandez had two hits, including a home run, walked twice, scored three times and drove in three runs in the Mets' 10-5 victory against the Phillies at The Vet. Ron Darling was the winning pitcher.

Six years later on this date, the Mets beat the Cardinals, 3-2, in St. Louis with a run in the ninth. The victory was the seventh in a streak of 11 -- one of four 11-game winning streaks in Mets' history -- for Buddy Harrelson's first team.

In 1997 on this date, Tom Glavine gained one of his 16 career victories against the Mets -- he lost seven times to them -- in a 14-7 Braves victory at Shea Stadium. Bobby Jones, who had a 12-3 record before the game, was the losing pitcher.

Coming up: Steve Trachsel (5-4, 4.67 ERA), who spent a forgettable two months with the Blue Jays in 2000 -- he had a 2-5 record in 11 starts -- pitches against them in a 12:07 p.m. ET game on Sunday. He has a 1-3 record and 4.39 ERA in the Rogers Centre, nee SkyDome. Josh Towers (1-8, 8.76 ERA) starts for the Jays.

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.