Aaron Bummer said he was wearing a dumbfounded smile and spitting out gibberish when his pitching coach at Triple-A Charlotte called him into an office Wednesday night to tell Bummer he soon would be on a plane to Chicago.
In a little more than a year, the 23-year-old left-hander made his return from Tommy John surgery and vaulted his way from rookie ball to the majors, where he made his debut Thursday after joining the White Sox bullpen.
Bummer was recalled from Charlotte before a 6-3 loss to the Cubs in the final game of the City Series to fill the bullpen spot of lefty Dan Jennings, whom the Sox traded to the Rays on Thursday for minor-league first baseman Casey Gillaspie.
"It's kind of a crazy turn of events," Bummer said before the game. "Could I have ever imagined this? Absolutely not."
Bummer came on in the eighth inning with the Sox trailing by three and struck out Anthony Rizzo for his first big-league out. After a Willson Contreras groundout, he gave up a home run to Kyle Schwarber on "a sinker that didn't sink." Jason Heyward flied out to right field to end his night.
"My legs were shaking a little bit," Bummer said after greeting family outside the clubhouse after the game. "I couldn't really feel the arm. Emotions were going crazy. Heartbeat was racing. But at the end of the day it was a baseball game."
Bummer, a 19th-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2014, joined the Sox for big-league spring training this year after throwing 162/3 innings in his return from surgery in 2016. He started 2017 at Class A Winston-Salem, jumped to Double-A Birmingham on May 5 and was promoted to Charlotte on July 17. After three appearances there, he's up with the short-handed Sox, who have traded their top four relievers in the last 10 days.
Bummer had a 3.31 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 20 walks over 49 innings pitched this year.
"It's one of those things where you take advantage of the opportunities you are given," Bummer said. "I got an invitation in spring training, and even that caught me off guard. … That turned a light on for me in (knowing) what could be."
Coincidentally, one of the pitchers Bummer leaned on during spring training was Jennings. The pair exchanged texts after Jennings learned of the moves.
"He was big in taking it day by day," Bummer said. "As soon as you get into a routine, you get into more of a comfort level. You are able to repeat those things."
Another newcomer: The Jennings trade was the Sox's fourth in 15 days, and it netted Gillaspie, who was ranked the 10th-best prospect in the Rays organization and now checks in at No. 14 with the Sox, according to MLB.com.
The brother of former Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie was a first-round draft pick in 2014. He has hit .259 with a .349 on-base percentage and 51 homers over four minor-league seasons.
Gillaspie was hitting .227 with 15 doubles, nine home runs, 44 RBIs, 36 walks and 77 strikeouts in 95 games this season with Triple-A Durham. He will be placed on the disabled list at Charlotte with a fractured right big toe suffered Tuesday and is expected to miss one or two weeks.
"Casey has shown a quality approach at the plate with some power," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. "He has stood out at every level."
Extra innings: The Sox recalled outfielder Willy Garcia from Triple-A Charlotte to fill the roster spot of Avisail Garcia, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained thumb. … Pitching prospect Zack Burdi had successful Tommy John surgery Thursday, the Sox said. … Pitching coach Don Cooper was out because he wasn't feeling well. Bullpen coach Curt Hasler filled in for him. … Sox outfielder Leury Garcia, who has been on the DL with a sprained finger since June 16, began a rehab assignment in the Arizona Rookie League on Wednesday.