The Seattle Mariners have less than six weeks to decide whether to offer a new contract to reliever Charlie Furbush.

On one hand, the South Portland native hasn’t pitched in the majors in more than a year and isn’t likely to be ready until late next season after undergoing shoulder surgery in August.

On the other, he’s a rock star in Seattle. Or at least he played one in tongue-in-cheek commercials promoting the Mariners.

He’s also the team’s union rep and in 2015 was Seattle’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for community service.

“That’s all to be determined,” Furbush said Wednesday from Seattle. “There’s a variety of outcomes as to how all this could shake out but ultimately it’s out of my hands. Once I get back to healthy, everything will take care of itself.”

If no contract is offered, Furbush will become a free agent.


Furbush, 30, went on the disabled list in early July 2015 with an initial diagnosis of biceps tendinitis, which was later discovered to be a partial tear of his rotator cuff. Extensive rehabilitation that included a therapeutic blood-spinning technique in late March of this year led to Furbush pitching in eight minor-league games this summer, but after back-to-back appearances in Triple-A Tacoma, he knew something wasn’t right.

“Not the night after but two nights after, I had some achiness is my arm,” Furbush said. “I let the doctors know and went back and got an MRI.”

The test revealed slight improvement from the MRI a year earlier, when the partial tear was first detected.

“We made the collective decision that the best course of action was to go in there and get it fixed,” Furbush said. “Now it’s up to me to bust my tail and get back to being healthy.”

The team orthopedist, Dr. Edward Khalfayan, performed the surgery Aug. 16. Early indications are everything went well.

“Most of the time you have to end up putting anchors in your shoulder but I didn’t,” Furbush said. “They just cleaned it up and removed some fraying. The tear in my rotator cuff was in a better spot than normal.”


Before surgery, Furbush figured he was facing a 12- to 18-month period of rehabilitation and set his sights on spring training of 2018. After surgery he moved up the timetable to next August.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush tosses memorabilia to fans after the team's final baseball game of the season on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Seattle.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush tosses memorabilia to fans after the team’s final baseball game of the season on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Seattle.

He works out at Safeco Field five days a week doing strength and range-of-motion exercises, and plans to begin playing catch in mid-January. Fellow pitchers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are the other players who remain in Seattle through the winter.

“It’s nice to have more time to explore the city,” he said. “There’s really so much to see out here.”

From a recent hike in Mount Rainier National Park to exploring Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and a variety of restaurants, Furbush has plenty to keep him busy. The team’s public relations staff also puts as much on his plate as he’s willing to handle.

“Anything I can help around the city, I’m more than happy to do,” Furbush said. “At this point I fully anticipate being in a Mariners uniform (next season). I would love to stay here.”

Furbush already missed the 2008 season, his second as a pro after playing for South Portland High, St. Joseph’s College and Louisiana State, recovering from Tommy John surgery. He plans on returning to Maine for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas, with a trip to Dallas in between to help negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. He’s been Seattle’s union rep since 2012.

“It’s been something I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from,” he said. “It’s a fun experience to see the other side of baseball.”


For three years running, Furbush has been involved in Seattle’s annual promotional commercials filmed during spring training. In 2014, he received balloon animals purportedly created by fellow pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. In 2015, he and fellow reliever Tom Wilhelmsen took a turn as heavy metal hair-band fans rocking out in a musical tribute to Gold Glove third baseman Kyle Seager.

On the night of filming with an ’80s cover band from Arizona called MetalHead, Seager couldn’t make it because his wife was ill. That left Furbush and Wilhelmsen room to improvise, and play air-guitar bats and channel their inner Wayne & Garth from the Saturday Night Live skit “Wayne’s World.”

“Tom and I have a pretty good 1-2 punch in terms of the mojo we bring,” Furbush said. “We just kind of rolled with it and ended up getting a bunch of footage. It turned out pretty hilarious.”

The actual spot shows Furbush and Wilhelmsen in the dugout for a few seconds, rocking out behind an embarrassed Seager, but the producers put together a two-minute musical video featuring the relievers and their goofy theatrics.

For this season, Furbush and Seager again were paired in a spot showing the mild-mannered Seager getting a makeover into a hip-hop K-Swag persona. The piece ends with Furbush following suit in funky glasses, a wild outfit and a thick gold chain reading C-FRESH.

The Mariners also featured Furbush in a “Dear Charlie” segment for their Facebook page that shows him responding to a variety of teammates’ questions.

“I guess I’m just comfortable in my own skin,” Furbush said. “Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make the 2017 commercial roster.”

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