Last Monday, Charlie Furbush, a South Portland native and relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, pitched 1 1/3 innings and struck out all four Chicago White Sox batters he faced.
Two days later, he allowed three hits, including a home run, in a loss to the Texas Rangers.
Such are the highs and lows of spring training.
Furbush, a 6-foot-5 left-hander, doesn’t worry much about what happens in spring training. With a roster spot secure, he’s working on being ready for the season that begins Monday against the Angels at Anaheim, Calif.
“I’m trying to get to the point where I am physically and mentally ready to go,” said Furbush. “This spring I’ve been working on locating my fastball and improving my command.
“As a bullpen guy you have to be ready to pitch in any game. I might pitch in back-to-back games or I might pitch with a day in between. I feel great going into the season and I feel our team is primed to make some noise.”
Furbush is beginning his third full season with the Mariners, who finished fourth in the AL West last year with a 71-91 record.
Furbush signed a one-year contract with the Mariners in December for $750,000; last year he made $504,000.
The contract and Furbush’s performances over the last two seasons eased the pressure of making the team.
“I’m on the team and confident heading into the season,” said Furbush.
Seattle has a new manager in Lloyd McClendon, who knew Furbush when both were in the Tigers’ organization and watched him develop. The team also has a new pitching coach in Rick Waits.
“I’m a Charlie Furbush fan,” said Waits. “He’s been sharp this spring and working on the things he needs to work on to get ready for the season. I’m sure he would like to have his outing against the Rangers back. He gave up a broken-bat single, then the next guy shattered his bat for a base hit and the next batter hit a home run.
“Charlie has proven his role on this team. He comes in for the late innings, usually the seventh or eighth innings, and gives us a lefty-on-lefty situation. He has a wicked breaking ball that’s tough for left-handed batters. He can be effective against right-handers, too. He’s a versatile pitcher. Building consistency is the key and Charlie is certainly doing that. He’s strong and ready for the season.”
Waits, who pitched 12 years in the major leagues (1973-1985), said Furbush is a good clubhouse presence.
“Charlie is such a great guy. He keeps us loose. Being a left-hander myself, we’re sort of kindred spirits,” he said.
At the start of spring training, McClendon described Furbush’s pitching motion as “funky.”
“He’s tall, lanky, coming across his body. If I was left-handed, I don’t know if I would want to face him,” McClendon said. “I saw him when he pitched against us, too. He was pretty good.”
Waits prefers to call Furbush’s delivery “deceptive.”
“Charlie is certainly capable of pitching more than one or two innings at a time,” said Waits.
Last season Furbush appeared in a team-high 71 games, tying for 10th for appearances by a pitcher in the American League.
He had a 2-6 record with a 3.74 earned-run average and held opponents to a .199 batting average.
Furbush averaged 11.08 strikeouts per nine innings, 14th in the American League and the second-most in club history by a left-handed reliever.
In seven appearances in spring training, Furbush is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA.
He would like his numbers to be better but knows spring training isn’t a time for posting impressive statistics, but to prepare for the season.
In his third spring training with the Mariners and as a proven major league reliever, he knows that well.
“I try not to think about my numbers,” said Furbush. “I let my preparation and my abilitiy work for me. I have a routine down and hopefully the more you do something, the better you’ll be at it.”
Every offseason, Furbush likes to return home. During the winter he does his throwing and workouts indoors.
Some may question why he doesn’t stay in Arizona with the warm weather. The Mariners have their spring-training home there.
“People ask me why I return to Maine during the offseason,” said Furbush. “That’s where it all started. It works for me and I can do everything I need to do to get ready. If it ain’t broke …”
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: