Rays top starter Chris Archer has been working on some moves this winter, training in Muay Thai, a broad full-contact form of martial arts.
"Just for the discipline element, the conditioning element," Archer said. "Learning how to defend and strike with all your limbs as opposed to only kick or only punch."
He also may want to take up juggling, as he prepares to take a bigger role on the team, assuming more leadership after the trade of franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria, while spreading the front-office mantra about the promise of a brighter future.
In talking about how badly he wants to win, noting losing records in each of his first four full seasons, Archer is trying to balance optimism and reality, acknowledging this year might be challenging again but a necessary step to get back to playoff contention.
So he says this:
"Dwelling on what we don't have, that's not a recipe for success. I've been talking to (GM) Erik (Neander) and they're really excited about these young guys."
"There is a group of promising young talent that is going to help the team in 2018 and I'm looking forward to being part of their development and growth."
But also this:
"There's definitely a lot of question marks. … Early in the season we're going to have some bumps and bruises with the young guys."
"Offensively it would sting if we took away a little bit more (besides Longoria and free agent 1B Logan Morrison). It would create opportunity for the young guys, but it wouldn't be ideal."
Having been told he's not being traded anytime soon, Archer said he is committed to doing what he can to help speed the prospects' progress. But the lineup is likely to get thinner, as they look to trade veterans such as Denard Span, Corey Dickerson and/or Brad Miller to cut payroll. And while the rotation could be stable even if Jake Odorizzi is dealt, the bullpen looks to be extremely inexperienced especially if/when Alex Colome is traded.
Spin rate may end up being measure of more than Archer's pitch rotation.
End of an era: After 19 seasons, and who knows how many thousands of squats, bullpen catcher Scott Cursi, 47, is moving to a different role, managing the umpires room for home games and pitching wherever needed, glove in hand. Longtime Rays minor-leaguer Mayo Acosta will take over, joining Misha Dworken.
Catching on: One area to be addressed before the first workout Feb. 14 is adding experienced catchers on minor-league deals. As of now, the only potential backup/Triple-A depth to Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre in camp is just-signed Johnny Monell, who has limited time with the Giants and Mets. The only other invitee is prospect Nick Ciuffo, who hasn't played above Double-A. Once promising Justin O'Conner signed with the Giants as a minor-league free agent.
Rays rumblings: If they can't/don't find trades to cut salary, wonder if they'd consider releasing any veterans on nonguaranteed contracts — such as Miller ($4.5 million) — during the spring, thus responsible for just 30 or 45 days' termination pay. … With the outfielder-rich Brewers now looking for a starter maybe a reunion could happen with Odorizzi, whom they gave up in December 2010 to get RHP Zack Greinke. … Other minor-league signees with camp invites include RHPs Ryan Weber, a St. Petersburg native, and Clearwater Central Catholic and St. Petersburg College product who has time with the Braves and Mariners, and Forrest Snow, who reached Triple-A with the Mariners and Brewers, and plays piano. … Fox Sports Sun is close to finding a new in-game reporter to replace Alex Corddry. … The Rays leaped from 19th to seventh in ESPN Keith Law's annual farm system ranking. … Interesting that the players union, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, is looking into whether the Marlins and Pirates are complying with revenue-sharing rules and re-investing money into baseball operations. … The signing scout for just-elected Hall of Famer Jim Thome was Tom Couston, who covers the Midwest for the Rays and has inked RHP Jeremy Hellickson and OF Kevin Kiermaier. … Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Andre Dawson and Wade Boggs headline the autograph signers at the Ted Williams Museum annual event, Feb. 10 in Clearwater, with Tony Perez, Dick Allen, Ron Guidry, J.R. Richard and Charlie Manuel to be honored. Tickets are $125, call (727) 534.5343 or see tedwilliamsmuseum.com for info.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.