PEORIA, Ariz. — Growing concern regarding Charlie Furbush’s slow recovery from shoulder problems is now prompting the Seattle Mariners to shift Mike Montgomery to full-time duty in the bullpen.
Furbush cut short a throwing session Saturday and isn’t expected to test his shoulder again until Tuesday, when he scheduled for a simple session of playing catch.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” manager Scott Servais admitted, “there’s a little concern with where he’s at. I still have my fingers crossed that he is going to be OK for opening day, but we just have to see where we’re at.”
Furbush didn’t pitch last season after July 7 because of biceps tendinitis and a slight tear in his rotator cuff. Club officials believed, and were initially optimistic, that a non-surgical recovery plan in the off-season would solve the problem.
But Furbush, while not in pain, continues to experience day-after tightness following his throwing program. That has become a growing concern.
“We’re getting closer (to the start of the season),” Servais said. “You’ve got to get into games and get going. I think he’s going to play catch on Tuesday, and we’ll see where he’s at.”
Montgomery made his spring debut Saturday night by pitching three scoreless innings in a start against Cincinnati in Goodyear. Barring injuries to the rotation, he always seemed a likely bullpen candidate because he is out of options.
“Everybody knows his situation,” Servais said. “He’s out of options. What are we going to do there? I think you’ll start to see him come in the game out of the bullpen. That might be his best shot to land a spot with us.”
Montgomery, 26, is a nine-year pro who has made just five relief appearances in 182 career games. He made his major-league debut last season by going 4-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 16 games — all starts.
“That’s what I feel most comfortable with,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always done. Obviously, I want to contribute in any way I can. But I definitely feel most comfortable as a starter.”
The Mariners’ need, though, is for lefties in the bullpen — particularly if Furbush isn’t ready for the season opener on April 4 in Texas.
Beyond Vidal Nuno, the only lefty reliever still in big-league camp is David Rollins, a Rule 5 pick a year ago who compiled a 7.56 ERA in 20 mostly low-leverage situations.
“We’ll probably give (Montgomery) the option to continue starting and see how that plays out,” Servais said. “Guys are smart. They look at the numbers. They look at the boards. They know where the opportunities lie.”