Phil Humber shows us that baseball can be fair sometimes. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps to win the job filling in for Jake Peavy, then performed so well that Ozzie Guillen chose to accommodate him upon Peavy's return.
But more often than not when it comes to life on the fringes, Jeff Gray shows us that baseball would rather be a real big jerk.
As expected, the White Sox designated Gray for assignment to make room for Peavy, who is coming off the disabled list and starting tonight. The 25-man roster is a zero-sum game, and Gray is a casualty of numbers.
Which is ironic in a way, since the numbers should be in Gray's favor. Even though he joined the team two weeks into the season, he pitched more innings (13 1/3) than Matt Thornton, Chris Sale, Will Ohman and Tony Pena. He also contributed more in terms of quality.
It's easy to get carried away, so here's where we note that Gray didn't enter any game that had a margin smaller than three runs. He never pitched in an important situation, so obviously he wasn't that essential to Guillen's immediate plans.
If there's any manager who recognizes a long reliever's value, though, it's Guillen. He's the guy who called D.J. Carrasco his "Team MVP" back in 2009, so Gray was smart to pull a page from George Costanza's playbook. Knowing full well Tuesday's appearance would be his last for the foreseeable future, Gray pitched three scoreless innings in relief of a mediocre John Danks.
The effort didn't result in a win. Gray couldn't flip the script and prevent Danks from plunging into his oh-and-sixth circle of Hell. But he threw three scoreless innings. And he didn't force Guillen to use another reliever in a no-win situation in the middle of a long West Coast road trip. Nobody else even had to warm up, as far as I know.
And for all that, he heads down to Charlotte instead of Pena, even though Gray was a better Tony Pena than Actual Tony Pena. Alas, the White Sox made an investment in Pena, whereas the non-roster-invitee Gray has the tag of freely available talent. It probably doesn't help that even his name is non-descript.
We know Guillen has a long memory, though. Earlier this week, he praised Gray for abiding by the Bullpen Honor Code:
"Very good. Very good," manager Ozzie Guillen said about Gray, repeating himself for emphasis. "That’s why we are very, very, very careful about what we are doing. I think this guy, every time we put him out there, he’s very aggressive. I like that. He throws strikes. He seems like he don’t care about what happens out there. I like it a lot."
And after Wednesday night, the last thing he'll remember about Gray is the time he made his job a lot easier. So when, following Tuesday's game, Paul Konerko told Gray that he would see him soon, I'm guessing time will prove the Captain correct.