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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tigers put LHP Thomas on DL, call up Furbush

It was only a matter of time.

With as much as the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen has struggled of late, it was no surprise Saturday when the Tigers called rookie Charlie Furbush up from Triple-A Toledo, taking the place of lefty Brad Thomas on the active roster.

The veteran Thomas, who had his elbow “lock up” while warming up Friday, was sent to the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. The move was retroactive to May 11, the day after Thomas’ last appearance.

Now the only question is, will Furbush — who International League in strikeouts (55) as a starter at Toledo — will move into Thomas’ spot in the bullpen to fortify the relief staff, or push reliever-turned-starter Phil Coke out of the rotation and back into last year’s role?
Thanks to the versatility of several Tigers fielders, the team was able to carry 12 pitchers on the roster coming out of spring training, and this move doesn’t change that ratio.
Having the extra arms has not helped so far, however.

The Tigers’ bullpen is dead last in the big leagues with a ghastly 5.91 ERA, with opposing batters hitting a sizzling .283 against it. It’s resulted in nine losses by the bullpen, third-worst in the majors.

And carrying the extra arms has meant that some relievers have gone more than a week without a call, necessitating the dreaded concept of “getting work” in games that have gotten out of hand.

That type of mop-up duty has been the primary role this season for the Aussie journeyman Thomas, who has had 10 of his 12 appearances come with the Tigers trailing. He’s not done well in those situations, however, sporting an ERA of 9.00 and allowing a ridiculous 10 of 12 inherited runners to score.

Furbush might not be the Tigers’ highest-ranking pitching prospect — right-hander Jacob Turner was No. 21 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list, while Furbush’s Toledo rotation-mate Andy Oliver was No. 87 — but he’d pitched like he was this season.

Second in all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts last year, the 25-year-old Furbush had two complete games and a shutout among his eight starts at Toledo, sporting an ERA of 2.91 — a bit bloated by one bad outing — a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 55/14 and a WHIP of 0.93.

Oliver, who hasn't been far behind Furbush, will likely be the next call-up by the Tigers, as they continue to seek options for a bullpen that's been hemorrhaging runs.

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