July 10, 2011

Furbush heads to minors, but future remains strong

Charlie Furbush has the poise and pedigree to make the majors, and likely to make a return.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Like every good baseball tale, the hero’s ascent flickers with that tiny gem of magic that coaxes a smile, and heralds unbridled optimism.

Charlie Furbush
click image to enlarge

Charlie Furbush is a picture of deception as he pitches – one reason he was able to rise to the majors before being sent back to Triple-A Toledo.

The Associated Press

Charlie Furbush had that unbridled optimism this week, and likely still has it, even though he discovered Saturday night just how cruel the business of baseball can be.

After being hammered for nine runs – four earned – by the Kansas City Royals in his second major league start, Furbush was returned to Triple-A.

Still, he was a delight Monday night when he made his first start in a California ballpark, some 3,000 miles from home on the Fourth of July.

And despite Saturday night, this is a story of a kid who made it, and likely will make it again.

It’s the story of a lanky pitcher from Maine with a dimpled grin who from the start seemed to know he had something special up the sleeve of his left arm.

If you haven’t already, meet Charlie Furbush.

Four syllables and a 6-foot-5 frame that hurls off the mound all arms and legs, a hurricane of movement that hides the ball for just a split second.

It carried him from South Portland to the starting rotation of the Detroit Tigers, making him just the fourth Maine pitcher in the last 20 years to start a major league game.

Furbush made his first big league start Monday at Angel Stadium, losing to Los Angeles. Saturday, he was knocked out in the third inning at Kansas City.

Furbush came out of high school in that splendid spring of 2004, when Mark Rogers of Mt. Ararat, an eventual Milwaukee Brewers first-round draft pick, faced a loaded Deering team in the Class A state final, a group that included eventual Triple-A pitcher Ryan Reid and Chicago Cubs prospect Ryan Flaherty among several other soon-to-be Division I baseball players.

The game was moved to Hadlock Field to accommodate the crowds. More than 7,000 were there.

Furbush was a secondary character that day, just a lanky kid who pitched pretty well, and whose groundout in the 11th inning ended South Portland’s run in a Western Maine semifinal a few days earlier.

He was wooed to St. Joseph’s College the next fall by a coach who saw something in him. But few other schools were interested.

He lit it up in Division III ball for Coach Will Sanborn and within two quick years, flanked by two summers mowing down batters in the storied Cape Cod League, transferred to Louisiana State.

That was the final launching pad, from which Detroit drafted him in the fourth round in 2007.

After Tommy John surgery in 2008, Furbush rose swiftly through the farm system, knocking out batters with stuff that never overpowered but simply got it done.

In May, with Brad Thomas on the disabled list, Furbush was called up from Triple-A Toledo.

Two days later, May 23, he made his big league debut, relieving an injured Phil Coke.

Six weeks later he was moved to the rotation when Coke was sent back to the bullpen.

And on the Fourth of July, in front of 40,000-plus at Angel Stadium, he trotted to the mound, jumping over the chalk of the first-base line, the kid from Maine, now the story’s protagonist.

Pitch by pitch, slowly but steadily, one step led to the next.

“I always think about that,” said Furbush. “It puts everything in perspective for me. It’s been a real fun journey for me. I’ve seen a whole lot of the country. I’ve met a lot of people.”

(Continued on page 2)

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