Thomas to 15-day DL, Furbush called up from Toledo

Charlie Furbush’s rapid rise through the Tigers farm system has landed him his first shot in the big leagues. The Tigers called up the deceptive left-hander from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning to take the place of lefty reliever Brad Thomas, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation.

Furbush makes the trip from Toledo presumably to fill Thomas’ bullpen spot, and some have projected him as an eventual strikeout lefty in the Majors. But his numbers at Toledo this year, and at three different levels last year, came as a starter with multiple out pitches. After ranking second among all Minor League pitchers last year with 183 strikeouts over 159 innings, the 25-year-old southpaw leads the International League with 55 strikeouts over 46 1/3 innings this season with the Mud Hens.

Just as impressive, and a big step in his development, he has managed to largely hold down hitters even when they put the ball in play. His 4-3 record over eight starts belies a 2.91 ERA, which kept him in some low-scoring affairs. Two of his starts were one-hit performances over seven and eight innings, the latter coming in defeat against Charlotte on the same day Justin Verlander pitched his no-hitter at Toronto.

The numbers and the pitching made Furbush one of the primary prospects to watch in Toledo alongside fellow lefty Andy Oliver, while another southpaw, Duane Below, has pitched himself into the conversation. Speculation had been building for Furbush and Oliver to get their shot shortly if they kept up this stingy pitching.

Furbush’s opportunity came from injury with Thomas, whose left elbow locked up on him Friday and left him unavailable for the series opener here against the Pirates. Thomas was scheduled to be checked out Saturday morning, but the Tigers couldn’t wait long without a roster move. His absence for any stretch would’ve left Daniel Schlereth as the lone left-hander in Detroit’s bullpen.

While there was talk out of Spring Training about the Tigers possibly getting by with one lefty, that depended on having an effective Joaquin Benoit pitching the eighth inning and a healthy Joel Zumaya fastball for the seventh. Neither of those have happened so far, though Benoit looked more like last year’s form in a mop-up inning Friday night.

7 Comments

Management has a real sneaky way of making these player moves. Don’t get me wron, Thomas did not belong on the roster, but to not play someone then so quickly place him on the DL smacks of a CYA strategy to me. This way you avoid the controversy and criticism of swapping a major leaguer for a minor leaguer. Granted, it does give Thomas some room to hold his head higher and not suffer the embarassment of being demoted. But it just seems less than being “perfectly honest” as JL likes to say.
I can understand people not wanting to timker with the rotation. Nor to put Coke through another transition. But Whayou have to analyze the bigger picture. The one where the bullpen is in shambles, great arms notwithstanding, and that this area is costing the team critical losses.
I was never keen on Coke starting but I have to say the guy has done his job well. Not that his record will show it since the bullpen he turns over to has blown about every game he’s pitched.
Coke might be the ingredient that stabilizes the pen. He certainly is far more equipped for that role than Charlie Furbush.

I forgot to add that I have been very sceptical of Tiger DL pronouncements. Particularly when it comes to their pitching staff. They have used this method as a convenient way of saying “bye-bye” to guys for quite a while now.
Interesting that the report above says Thomas has been DL’d “with what’s being CALLED left elbow inflammation”

Dan – I do not think Thomas can be sent to the minors, he would have to be designated for assignment. Putting him on the DL protects him somewhat. I think Thomas’ time is coming to an end with Detroit, with 4 leftys knocking at the door. The question is: is the bullpen the best place for Charlie Furbush? I think he is more of a starter and the transition to BP is not as easy as some people think. If you need a lefty out of the pen, Adam Wilk may be a better option. Also, Furbush may not get many opportunities to pitch with our starters.

If Furbush takes over the Thomas role, he’ll pitch about once a week.
My thinking is that Benoit has hit a temporary rough patch and will get it back together. The starters have done an excellent job going seven innings and more, which is ideal for a Benoit-Valverde finish. I also think Leyland should use Perry properly (remember that Seattle mess last year?) and Ryan will either respond or he won’t. I think he will. Bringing a pitcher as unstable as Schlereth into a tight spot just because he’s lefthanded is just courting disaster. All this taken together, I see no need to move Coke. At the worst, this move could always be made later if necessary. And I realize that I have less confidence in the Toledo call-ups than the majority of fans. When I go around and read some discussion sites, it appears that many think all of our best players are at Toledo.

the starters have been really good, but they’ve been so hot, it’s a pace that cannot be expected to continue. Furbush can potentially serve 2 roles, being the long man primarily and on occasion a situational lefty (if the starters continue to pitch deep on a regular basis) as AAA lefties have gone just .130 off him. other teams’ major league scouts will be watching, so if he can make a quick adjustment to mlb, furbush might become a trade chip.

How about fixing the blowpen this way: Add Furbush to the rotation, then use each starter in the bullpen on his “throw day”. Could get the 7th or 8th inning covered that way.

For anyone who wants to watch today’s game but is blacked out locally you can watch online here: http://ilemi.me/

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