South Portland’s Charlie Furbush having breakthrough season with Mariners

Seattle Mariners pitchers (from left) Charlie Furbush of South Portland, Stephen Pryor, Kevin Millwood, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen pose with the scoreboard reset to the final from two nights earlier Sunday, June 10, in Seattle. The six combined to throw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Elaine Thompson | AP
Seattle Mariners pitchers (from left) Charlie Furbush of South Portland, Stephen Pryor, Kevin Millwood, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen pose with the scoreboard reset to the final from two nights earlier Sunday, June 10, in Seattle. The six combined to throw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Posted June 15, 2012, at 5:01 p.m.

SEATTLE — South Portland’s Charlie Furbush had his name etched in Major League Baseball record books last weekend.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound lefthander was one of six pitchers who combined on a no-hitter as the Seattle Mariners blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0.

That tied a MLB record for most pitchers combining on a no-hitter.

Furbush had the difficult task of entering the game cold.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood suffered a mild groin strain throwing his first warm-up pitch in the seventh inning and had to leave the game.

“We thought it was a blister or something minor,” said the 26-year-old Furbush, who starred for two seasons at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. “We were all watching. Once he came out, we didn’t know who was going in. The bullpen phone rang and they called my name to come in.

“I had the luxury of being able to throw as many [warm-up] pitches as I needed but it didn’t take me too long,” said Furbush. “I just tried to get as loose and as physically ready as possible. And I tried to keep the team in the game.”

Furbush entered the scoreless game and retired Dee Gordon, committed a two-base throwing error and struck out Andre Ethier before being replaced by Stephen Pryor, who struck out Juan Rivera to end the inning.

Three more relievers finished off the eighth and ninth innings.

“It was tough to see Kevin not be able to finish it himself,” said Furbush. “But we came in and finished it off for him.

“To have all six of us do it together was something special. It was a day to remember,” he added.

Furbush is having a season to remember so far.

The former starting pitcher has found his niche in the bullpen.

He is 2-1 with a 2.59 earned run average but, over his last 10 appearances, he has allowed just two hits and no runs with 15 strikeouts and only one walk.

Overall, he has thrown 24⅓ innings and surrendered just 12 hits. He has 29 strikeouts, five walks and opponents are hitting a paltry .143 against him.

He has an 0.69 ERA against lefthanded hitters.

“Charlie has done a great job for us in a variety of roles,” said Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis. “He has been great when needing to face one batter, often a left-hander, and also good when he has to go one or two innings.

“He came up after a little time in the minors and has solidified his role in the bullpen. Every staff needs a versatile pitcher, and Charlie is fitting that role very well,” Willis added.

“My slider has been working pretty well,” said Furbush. “And I mix in my fastball and curve. I use those three pitches and I’ll mix in a change-up every now and then. I feel pretty good with all of my pitches. I keep trying to pitch to my strengths.”

Furbush had been a starter throughout his career.

He was a standout at South Portland High School before pitching for coach Will Sanborn at St. Joseph’s. An impressive summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League landed him the opportunity to transfer to Louisiana State University where he was 3-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 16 starts. He struck out 88 in 87 innings and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round later that year and signed with them.

He was 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA in Class A ball later that summer but missed all of 2008 with arm surgery.

He made his MLB debut with the Tigers on May 21, 2011 and went 1-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 17 appearances including 15 relief stints.

He was traded to the Mariners with three other players for David Pauley and Doug Fister on July 30, 2011.

He returned to a starting role with Seattle and went 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA. He made 10 starts among 11 appearances.

Furbush had an impressive spring, posting an 0.82 ERA over 10⅓ innings of work and began the season on the Mariners roster. He was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on April 4 and allowed one hit with six strikeouts over four innings.

But the Mariners called him up nine days later when reliever George Sherrill went on the disabled list and Furbush has responded.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last year. I’ve moved around from starter to reliever; I got traded and I was back in Triple-A. I’ve gotten to experience a lot and that has really helped me,” said Furbush. “I’ve been able to make a better transition and I’ve learned from my mistakes.

“I just try to take things one day at a time. I can only worry about things I can control,” Furbush added. “I try to get as prepared as I can every day, mentally and physically. I just want to help the team win as many games as possible.”

He has yet to face his high school rival, Deering High School of Portland shortstop Ryan Flaherty, who has become a versatile utility man for the Baltimore Orioles.

“But I stay in touch with him,” said Furbush. “There are a few guys from Maine in pro ball but there isn’t a big network of us so we try to stay in touch and keep tabs on each other.”

He is proud to be one of the rare major leaguers from Maine.

“I just want to represent myself, my family, the city and the state as best I can,” said Furbush. “I’ve been really blessed.”

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