It was just over a week ago that Charlie Furbush drove 19 straight hours from the coast of Florida to Erie, Pa., with just his belongings and a couple of energy drinks.

He couldn’t get there fast enough.

Three years after being drafted by the Detroit Tigers, the South Portland left-hander was promoted to Double-A Erie — another step closer to the major leagues, and a telling sign his career is on track.

“My manager congratulated me and said, ‘You’re going up. You earned it. Keep doing the same thing up there. The game is no different,’ ” said Furbush. “I left that afternoon and drove straight through.”

Furbush, 24, spent 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery before pitching well in the Florida State League in 2009 with the Class A Lakeland Flying Tigers.

But it was this spring when he turned the corner. Furbush struck out 109 batters in 77 innings for Lakeland. He had five starts with 10 or more strikeouts.

The time had come.

Furbush was getting ready to throw a bullpen session before a morning game when Manager Andy Barkett approached him.

“He’s been progressing quite well for us,” said Dan Lunetta, the director of minor league operations for the Tigers. “We felt it was time to move him along The reason he’s been promoted is he’s shown significant improvement and now we have an expectation that he’ll carry that forward to Double-A.”

Two days after arriving in Erie, Furbush had his first start June 26, a no-decision in a 6-3 loss to Richmond.

He went seven innings, giving up eight hits and three earned runs. He also gave up two home runs to Thomas Neal, who had three in the game.

“The first one he got kind of carried out. The second one he got pretty good,” said Furbush. “I left it up in the zone. I think it just comes down to, the only thing that changes as you move up is if you put any mistake out there, a good hitter is going to notice and take advantage of it It was a good first taste of Double-A.”

In his second start Thursday night, also against Richmond, Furbush gave up one earned run in seven innings — an inside-the-park homer in the third, when the ball took a quirky bounce off the wall in right field and caromed along the edge of the wall toward center.

After that he retired 12 straight batters but finished with another no-decision in a 2-1 loss.

“Thursday night, really, he relied on the fastball early,” said the Erie radio announcer, Greg Gania. “When he moved to his secondary pitches he really took over. It looked like he was getting the slider over well, then he’d come high and tight with the fastball I know the Tigers are very high on him to bring him here right now.”

He struck out four, walked two and gave up five hits. His earned-run average in 14 innings with Erie is 2.57.

Lunetta said Furbush likely will stay in Double-A for the rest of the season.

“This is how you find out how a player is going to respond at the next level,” said Lunetta. “One of three things will happen. He’ll get better, he’ll backslide or he’ll stay the same. We think Charlie will handle it fine.

“We want him to enjoy the success he’s been having this year, and continue to get better so his path will ultimately lead to the major leagues someday.”

That journey is something his family has watched proudly as his career wound from tiny St. Joseph’s College in Maine, to Louisiana State, where he was drafted after his junior year in 2007.

“I can look at the sport as sport, but when you’re caught in it the way we are, you realize everybody is somebody’s son,” said his dad, Craig Furbush. “It’s a complicated business.”

As a parent, Craig Furbush said he’s grateful for his son’s years in college, that he was able to mature at his own pace without the pressure of being thrown straight from high school into a professional career.

“Some kids are very, very talented, no question. But imagine what it’s like to be a major leaguer at 20?” he said. “There’s something about Charlie’s career that has allowed him to grow this way. I think it’s really helping him. He hasn’t been rushed.”

And for now, the Tigers don’t want him changing a thing.

“You don’t toy with anything with somebody who is having success,” said Lunetta.

Agreed Furbush: “I think when it comes down to it, a lot of players have talent. Consistency is the name of the game. It’s knowing what you’ve got and delivering, day in, day out.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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