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Expect a good start from White Sox’ rotation

Phillip Humber was 8-5 with 3.10 ERA first half 2011. | 
Paul Connors~AP

Phillip Humber was 8-5 with a 3.10 ERA in the first half of 2011. | Paul Connors~AP

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Updated: April 22, 2012 10:15AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — From where he stands at the back of the line, Philip Humber has a clear view of the White Sox’ starting rotation. He likes what he sees.

Granted, every Sox pitcher probably would say good things about the rotation. Humber, though, is a thoughtful product of academically strong Rice University, and he has credits from the pitching school of hard knocks as a former No. 3 overall draft pick who hit the skids before rising up and pitching like an All-Star during the first half of last season.

“The strength of our staff is that we’re deep and every night you’ll have an opportunity to win,’’ Humber said. “Other teams may have a horse who is more dominant than our pitchers but I don’t think there are many teams with five guys who are as capable. We have a lot of quality, talented arms. It’s a strength of our team, something we can hang our hat on.’’

Here’s the glass half-full take on the rotation of John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale and Humber. It comes from veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski:

“Peavy has a Cy Young, John Danks has pitched well in this league for five years, Gavin Floyd has all the potential in the world, Humber had a really good year last year for his first full year, and Sale, if he can do what he did coming out of the bullpen and stay healthy he’ll be fine. They have a chance to be pretty good and if everything works out right they can be really good.’’

Here’s the skeptic’s half-empty view: Danks is 54-56 with a 4.03 ERA in his career, and after becoming the first Sox pitcher to receive a five-year extension (for $65 million), he must be feeling the weight of his deal because he’s having trouble throwing strikes this spring; Peavy is a question mark because of past health issues; Floyd’s good stuff has translated into one winning record and sub-4 ERA in his career; Sale is unproven as a starter and Humber’s numbers got worse after a strong first half in 2012. The Sox might have five No. 3s but they have no No. 1.

After nothing but ho-hum or bad first outings for the starters, Peavy’s and Sale’s last outings in the last four days — five hitless innings for Peavy against the Mariners and six scoreless, two-hit frames for Sale against the Reds — provided a hint of how good the rotation can be. The guy who pieced it together says the starting five are good enough for him.

“We feel very confident we are running a starting pitcher out there every day that can give the team a chance to win,’’ general manager Ken Williams said Tuesday.

The Sox have been pretty good at doing that. Since 2003, they lead the major leagues with 794 quality starts (six innings or more, three earned runs or fewer).

“There is no reason to think this won’t continue,’’ Williams said. “We just have to take better advantage of that with better overall fundamental play both offensively and defensively.’’

That said, the Sox don’t have a bona fide ace.

Not yet, anyway.

“Jake is capable of that and we know it because he has done it,” Humber said. “I’m just getting started, Sale is just getting started but he’s super talented with better stuff than 95 percent of the guys in the league. When I was with the Twins I saw John throw eight shutout innings against us in the blackout game, so you know he has that [big game ability] in him. Gavin has four pitches that are as good as any four-pitch guy in the league.’’

The bottom line? The rotation has question marks, but there are fewer surrounding it than any area of the Sox.

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