Left-hander Charlie Furbush made his first start as a member of the Seattle Mariners Wednesday afternoon against the Oakland A's. First off, seeing as how he hadn't started a game (major or minor league) since July 14th, it was expected that Furbush wouldn't throw a lot of pitches, and that his command may be a bit off. Manager Eric Wedge mentioned that he was hoping to get 70 pitches out of him.
Furbush didn't quite hit that number, but he also gave Wedge much more than the skipper could have expected. The 6-foot-5 lefty was very efficient with his pitches and showed very good control, throwing 44 or 62 pitches for strikes. He showed a consistent low three-quarters release, and while he wasn't great in keeping the ball down, he was actually effective at changing the eye-level of the hitter with his rather pedestrian fastball, inducing seven swinging strikes on balls out of the zone by Oakland hitters. It does appear that he hides the ball well enough through his delivery that he creates deception—particularly versus lefties.
His fastball sat 88-91 and touched 93, and he got three swings-and-misses out of the 35 he threw. His changeup wasn't used frequently and it didn't appear to differentiate much from the fastball (82-85 with some arm-side run) but he kept it down. His curveball—which has some pretty decent spin and sweeping movement, and which some call a slider—was consistently 78-80 and was a strike on 14 of the 18 he threw, with four swings-and-misses which included two in one at bat that made lefty Ryan Sweeney look silly.
Over all, Charlie showed the ability to mix his speeds and change spots on his pitches enough to keep the Oakland A's—who aren't exactly world-beaters at the plate—off balance for five innings and just under two complete trips through the lineup. While he showed decent control, he will need to polish up the command of the fastball and show the ability to throw more changeups to right-handers in order to develop into a legitimate 4/5 starter for the Mariners.
Furbush had more strikeouts than innings in half of his 10 minor league appearances this season and ranked 2nd in the minors in strikeouts in 2010 (183), so the swing-and-miss stuff is there. After missing 2008 following Tommy John surgery he has made a nice recovery, and if he can't show the polish required to be one of the five starters for the Mariners in 2012 and beyond, at the least his low three-quarters arm slot and repertoire should prove effective in a lefty specialist relief role.