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Furbush proving invaluable to Mariners

SEATTLE -- Charlie Furbush has been a starter, a long reliever, a setup man and a lefty specialist over the course of his baseball career. Now he's even serving as something of a situational closer in tandem with rookie right-hander Carson Smith, working ninth innings when the opposing lineup features a lefty or two leading off the frame as happened in Wednesday's 2-0 victory over the Giants.

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But no matter the situation, Furbush has been outstanding this year. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 1.93 ERA in 28 appearances, ranks ninth in the American League with 10 holds and hasn't allowed any of the 14 runners he's inherited to score.

"He's very versatile," manager Lloyd McClendon said prior to Thursday night's series finale with the Giants. "He can pitch at any time, in any situation, and when he's throwing strikes he's as good as any lefty in the league."

McClendon typically brings Furbush in to face tough lefties, but he's proven capable of handling right-handers as well. Lefties are batting .118 against him (4-for-34), while righties are at .129 (4-for-31). He has allowed two homers to righties, which pushes his OPS to .528 against them as opposed to a minuscule .284 by southpaw swingers.

"His numbers keep getting better," McClendon said. "He's done an outstanding job for us. The lineup sets up in certain ways where he's facing lefties, but I'm not afraid to have him face righties at all. In fact, he's faced some big righties this year."

Furbush got the first two outs in the ninth against lefties on Wednesday before Smith came on to strike out right-hander Matt Duffy to claim the save, but Furbush said he's just as comfortable facing right-handers, which is a product of having come up as a starter in college and in the Tigers system before being traded to Seattle in 2011.

"You just go in there and know what you're capable of and that you can get the job done regardless of the situation," Furbush said. "It's knowing your strengths and sticking to them. It doesn't matter who is up there, left-handed or right-handed. You go up there and get in the zone and you can get anyone out."

After some early season struggles, the bullpen seems to have solidified with the addition of Mark Lowe and Joe Beimel and the switch in late-inning roles.

"It's just kind of the journey of the season. The roller coaster," Furbush said. "You go through your ups and your downs. But in the end, we're trying to stick the course. We know what's ahead of us and what we have to do. It's the same approach. Just try to win tonight and go out there and be ready."

Worth noting

• Left-handed reliever David Rollins, the Mariners Rule 5 Draft pick who was suspended for 80 games after a failed drug test in Spring Training, joined Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday to begin a 16-day rehab assignment. Once the Mariners play their 80th game on July 3, he'll be eligible to rejoin the Major League club on July 4 and he'll either need to be placed on Seattle's 25-man roster then or be offered back to the Astros for $25,000, per Rule 5 rules.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
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