Brad Furnish (left) and Andy Shipman. (Photo by Matthew Hicks.)
Two seasons ago, in 2010, current T-Bones pitching coach Andy Shipman and relief pitcher Brad Furnish were teammates at Gary SouthShore. The two became friends in the bullpen. So, when T-Bones manager Kenny Hook was looking for a left-handed arm for the bullpen, Shipman was quick to mention Furnish, who had spent 2011 and part of this year in the Chicago White Sox’s organization. Now, as Shipman and Furnish are reconnected as T-Bones, they reminisce with Taylor Johnson of tbonesbaseball.com about their time together in Indiana, the challenges of a player-coach relationship and how Shipman brought Furnish to Kansas City.
What are your memories of pitching together two years ago in Gary SouthShore?
Andy Shipman: Our relationship was always good at Gary, and that’s one of the biggest reasons he’s here now. I liked how he went about his business there and I knew he was going to be the type of guy that I wouldn’t have to worry about as a coach here. He’s a veteran type guy who’s going to get his work in. I know his game plan and I know how he’s going to pitch. He holds runners well and throws strikes. He’s got good stuff. That’s one of the biggest reasons he’s here right now. He’s here because I knew him and played with him (in Gary).
Brad Furnish: We went about pitching in the same type of way. We had a lot of the same approaches. It was kind of fun because I was the set up guy and he was the closer. It makes it easy to come here when I know the guy so well. I know that I’m not going to get babysat and he knows that I’m going to get my work in. It made it easy to pick up the phone and come here.
How was the adjustment of having Shipman as a coach instead of a teammate?
BF: I don’t get to hang out with him as much. Other than that, the same conversations take place. We’ve always had that same respect. We talk about our outings the same way and just because he’s the pitching coach now, which doesn't change our conversations or the respect level. I just don’t get to hang out with him as much.
AS: Like I was going to hang out with this guy anyway (laughs). But like he said, we’d go over things anyway when he was pitching and I was pitching. We’d talk about mechanics and approaches to batters. We’d talk about what pitches we threw to each guy and so we kind of already had those talks anyway. We’d talk about watching for this or for that when we were out there throwing or throwing in the pen. It makes it easy now being his pitching coach. At this point in his career, we’re just looking for little things. I’m not going to go out there and change what got him here. But there are little key things that are going to make him get off of his game plan and I feel like I know him well enough to go out there and say one little thing and get him back on track. From that stand point it’s not weird for us, where it could be playing with a guy.
Brad, you mentioned you were a starter in Gary. How is the change to reliever?
BF: I got drafted as a starter but in recent years I’ve been back and forth out of the bullpen. A couple years ago in Gary, I was in the bullpen and that’s where I got to hang out with (Shipman). Either way it doesn’t matter to me — I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I enjoy it and it’s always nice to have multiple lefties in a bullpen so I’m not going to complain about it. And also there are some young guys out there that need some guidance, and when Shippy is in the dugout he can’t really hear what’s going on or the conversations that are going on out there. But me being the oldest guy out there, I can try and put my two cents in, especially when I know where Shippy comes from. It makes it pretty easy. I’m just another guy that helps out with the philosophy and the plan.
What kind of advice do you give the other pitchers?
BF: I tell them it’s more about letting the mechanical stuff take place when you’re playing catch or getting your side work done. Then, about when you’re in a game, what you need to do. We talk about the perspective you need to have in a game, and what the hitters will be doing, stuff like that. Sometimes there are guys I’ve seen before but the other guys don’t know who they are, and Shippy has seen them too. So we know what to expect from them and some guys have no clue because it’s there first time seeing those guys.
Shipman mentioned earlier that he helped get you here, how did that happen?
BF: I got hurt earlier this year, and went home and rehabbed. It got to the point where I wanted to play again. I know part of picking a place to go was to pick a place where I was going to be comfortable and know the guys. That makes this place perfect. My wife’s from up here and we had talked about it before and so everything just kind of came together. I picked up the phone just to see how it was going and it worked out.
AS: We had talked multiple times this year already. When he went to the White Sox, we talked and I said, ‘have fun with that but if anything changes give me a call.’ The relationship was already there and the talks were already there, we were just waiting on the right timing.