DETROIT -- Charlie Furbush made it back to the big leagues Wednesday in time for the Tigers' Christmas in July promotion. His first task back in a Major League uniform was to catch the ceremonial first pitch from Santa Claus, who practically spiked the ball in the infield on its way to the plate in 95-degree weather at Comerica Park.
It wasn't the job Furbush was envisioning when he was an option for Detroit's fifth-starter spot a few days ago. Fortunately, he got to return to his relief role after that. He was warming up in the fourth inning.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'll do," Furbush said before the Santa part of his job.
For now, manager Jim Leyland is avoiding the long-term answer to that question. A few weeks ago, before putting Furbush in the rotation for two starts, Leyland said he wasn't sure which role fit Furbush best for his career. Before that, Leyland had said he felt Furbush's best shot was in relief.
All that concerns Leyland now is what Furbush can bring to the bullpen, from long relief to lefty specialist situations to the occasional need for a ground ball. That's why the Tigers brought him back, even after deciding on Duane Below as their starter for Wednesday.
"He's really pretty versatile out there," Leyland said Wednesday afternoon. "He can give us innings as a long lefty, and he can also, if I need to give [Phil] Coke or [David] Purcey off a night, he can also pitch to a left-handed hitter late in a game, so he gives us some versatility."
As for the longer-term implications, Leyland will deal with that later.
"I don't really know the answer to that," Leyland said. "I think that we're trying to win. That's what I think this all boils down to. We're trying to win right now, and there's time for that down the road. That's not of that much importance right now. It's not like we're messing with somebody's career. I'm sure Charlie's glad to be up here in the bullpen at this time."