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Philip Humber winning points with White Sox’ Cooper

Philip Humber | Getty Images

Philip Humber | Getty Images

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Updated: May 28, 2011 4:51AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It did Philip Humber good to know that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper dropped his name Friday while talking about the hopefuls who have caught his eye in the first nine days of spring training.

There might be a fifth starter’s spot to be had, depending on Jake Peavy’s comeback from surgery, and/or a job in the bullpen. Humber, Miguel Socolovich, Jeff Gray, Josh Kinney and Brian Bruney were all cited by Cooper. It’s music to any hopeful’s ears, and for what it’s worth, Humber’s name was mentioned first.

‘‘I kind of like what Humber’s doing,’’ Cooper said. “My thing is, give us the ammunition that we need to keep you around. If you attack the strike zone, if you get ahead, that’s the ammo. If you’re not — well, sorry.’’

Cactus League games, which begin Monday when the Sox play the Los Angeles Dodgers, ultimately will decide the fate of Humber and the others.

‘‘I’m really happy with what I’m seeing,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘But what often happens with the young guys is they look good now, but when . . . hitters step in there, all of a sudden they get distracted.’’

Humber, 28, knows it’s time to stay focused. The Texan, who starred at Rice, was the third overall pick in the 2004 draft by the New York Mets. Since then, his biggest claim to fame might be being one of the four players the Minnesota Twins received from the Mets in the 2008 trade for Johan Santana.

In December, the Oakland Athletics claimed Humber off waivers from the Kansas City Royals after he had been designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Jeff Francoeur. When the A’s designated him for assignment a few weeks later to make room for Guillermo Moscoso, the Sox claimed him off waivers.

‘‘It was a weird, crazy offseason,’’ said Humber, a right-hander who was 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 212/3 innings with the Royals last season, his biggest workload in five seasons with three teams. ‘‘I feel good. It’s been a good camp so far. It’s time for the games to start, so hopefully I can make a good impression and have a chance to help the team.

‘‘I like the way the ball is coming out of my hand. For the most part my command with the fastball has been good, and that’s the first thing you want going when you get to spring training. Hopefully I’ll have all three pitches [fastball, curve, changeup] locked in soon.’’

Cooper also wants Humber to tinker with a cut fastball.

‘‘Something I’m kind of working on,’’ Humber said.

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