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Strong first half aside, White Sox’ Philip Humber a question mark

White Sox right-hander Philip Humber is 0-4 with 7.97 ERA his last four starts. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

White Sox right-hander Philip Humber is 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA in his last four starts. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: September 7, 2011 12:41AM

MINNEAPOLIS — The first half of the season, White Sox right-hander Philip Humber could do no wrong. He was pitching coach Don Cooper’s latest star pupil, a reclamation project-turned-All-Star candidate.

Now, the hope is Humber can just last the season in the starting rotation. He’s 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA in his last four starts, allowing 18 runs in 201/3 innings.

Manager Ozzie Guillen thought Humber performed well in a 7-2 loss Thursday to the New York Yankees, but he’s well aware that Humber never has pitched more than 150 innings at any level.

‘‘Minor-league innings, that is [crap],’’ Guillen said. ‘‘That is nothing. Minor-league innings compared to here [in the big leagues], I think it’s double because you have to grind it out every pitch. In the minor leagues, you get away with two, three, four guys in the lineup, and you mess around. In the big leagues, every pitch, you got to be on it.

‘‘But he threw the ball good [Thursday], especially the way those guys were hitting. The last time [against the Boston Red Sox], he hit the wall. [Thursday], he threw the ball pretty good.’’

The problem is, the Sox have to keep pushing to be sure of what they have going into next season. Left-hander Mark Buehrle will be a free agent, and it’s very likely the Sox could dangle John Danks or Gavin Floyd in the trade market this winter to cut salary. If Humber can’t sell the Sox on the notion he can be counted on to start in 2012, there could be more questions than answers by next spring.

Not an option

Chris Sale has had several three-inning outings out of the bullpen, and the Sox plan to make him a starter next season, but Guillen doesn’t see a dress rehearsal coming this year for Sale, even if the Sox are out of it the last few weeks of the season.

‘‘I think [general manager] Kenny [Williams] wants him to be a starter next year, but I don’t think we should [start him this year],’’ Guillen said. ‘‘I want to win a couple more games. I don’t care if I’m in last place or not, I’m going to play every day to win. I might see one guy here or there, but my job is to win games.

‘‘Obviously, if we get to that position [where we’re out of it], I’ll give the kids a chance. In the meanwhile, I’m not going to go out there and throw everything away. I don’t know what exactly they have planned next year for this kid. I think we should prepare him in spring training and the offseason.’’

Still some pain

Paul Konerko is still bothered by the bone bruise on his left leg, and that’s why Guillen is keeping him in the designated-hitter spot for now. He might not see action at first base until the series with the Baltimore Orioles next week, Guillen said.

† Williams is not with the team on this trip. He’s reportedly watching some of the minor-league players.

† With a first-inning walk by Konerko on Friday night, the Sox ended a streak of 133 plate appearances without a walk. They didn’t walk in the four-game sweep by the Yankees.

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