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Philip Humber returns for White Sox at the perfect time

With injuries mounting White Sox welcome return Philip Humber starting rotation. | AP

With injuries mounting, the White Sox welcome the return of Philip Humber to the starting rotation. | AP

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Updated: July 17, 2012 5:30PM

Philip Humber returns to the White Sox rotation tonight, and not a moment too soon.

The Sox rotation has been depleted by loss of John Danks with a shoulder injury, Humber’s elbow flexor strain and — the latest this week — Gavin Floyd’s elbow that could land him on the disabled list. Humber has been on the DL list since June 17.

“It’s not fun being on the sidelines,’’ Humber said. “I’m excited to get back. There’s been a lot of hard work to get back and ready to help the team win.’’

One Red Sox hitter Humber won’t have to worry about is slugger David Ortiz, who appeared to strain his right Achilles rounding the bases on Adrian Gonzalez’s home run on Monday night. Manager Bobby Valentine said Ortiz, who was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, could be out “a few days.”

Humber’s last rehab assignment, at AA Birmingham on Thursday, was crisp. He gave up two hits and no walks in six innings.

“In a rehab situation the main thing is to be healthy and build arm strength but at the same time it’s nice to have a good performance, especially the last one to leave yourself with a nice taste in your mouth,’’ Humber said. “Hopefully it’s something to build off of coming back here.’’

Humber hadn’t pitched well since his perfect game in Seattle on April 21, posting a 7.47 ERA since then. His record is 3-4 with a 6.01 ERA. On some nights, the snap on his breaking pitches wasn’t the same since the perfecto. A tender elbow/forearm area will cause that.

When Humber went down, the Sox were three games above .500. Today, they’re nine over, and Humber is eager to be involved.

“It’s been fun to watch but it’s going to be more fun to be a part of,’’ he said.

Thanks to Jose Quintana’s performance in Danks’ place, the Sox so far haven’t lost ground. Another starter, Dylan Axelrod, has had strong outings in New York and Boston, including Monday night’s gem (a no-decision in the Red Sox’ 5-1 victory).

“Teams that go to the playoffs, it takes more than 25 guys,’’ Humber said. “There are going to be bumps along the way when guys have to step up. The guys who’ve had the opportunities have done a great job. To see guys succeed, it’s cool to watch. And young guys bring energy, too. They’ve not only kept us where we’re at but moved us forward a little bit.’’

Humber will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester.

The White Sox will send a pitcher to AAA Nashville before the game to make room for Humber.

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