Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Archer confident his season has turned around

SEATTLE — Rays All-Star ace Chris Archer takes the mound this afternoon as confident as he has been all season in his full three-pitch repertoire of fastball, slider and changeup.

"They are full force, ready to go," the right-hander said before Tuesday night's game against the Mariners. "Lethal Weapon 3, Danny Glover."

His success over his past three outings certainly validates that confidence. He has posted a 2-0 record and a 0.96 ERA (with the Rays winning the other game) while allowing only a .167 average and not a single hit with a runner in scoring position.

And now that he looks back at his rough start to the season — 0-4, 7.32, with a .345 opponents' average — he acknowledges what others had suggested: The scheduling issues that interrupted his spring routine impacted the beginning of the regular season.

"It's very interesting, and I kind of look back to the unfortunate circumstances that I had in spring training — I didn't pitch in an actual (major-league exhibition) game for three weeks before the season," he said.

"Throwing on a back field is cool. But I think I just wasn't able to really fine-tune and sharpen my stuff until like three, four games into the season, honestly.

"I feel really good right now. I feel like I'm in a really good place with all three pitches for sure."

Archer pitched in only three big-league exhibitions during the spring, and last on March 14. A March 19 start was rained out after six pitches, so he threw in the batting cage.

Then his next two outings were impacted by the schedule, as the Rays were playing the Blue Jays, his opening day opponent. Instead, Archer and Rays brass decided to have him work in minor-league games, so he faced the Twins' Triple-A team on March 24 then, due to more weather issues, pitched to his teammates in something of an intrasquad game on March 29.

"I got rained out and then I was pitching against Toronto twice — it was just the luck of the draw," Archer said. "It's not an excuse. But next year if something similar happens, I'm going to find a way to have more intent. I don't know how, but I'm going to."

Archer, in a way, has become a victim of his 2015 success as his rough start came under heavy scrutiny. He never flinched or doubted himself, pointing out that other top pitchers, such as ex-teammate David Price, now with Boston, and Oakland's Sonny Gray, also got off to slow starts.

And as well as he has pitched over his past three outings, manager Kevin Cash said he can still be better.

"I still think as long as we're continuing to work at it, it's a work in progress," Cash said.

"We saw Archer so good last year, especially over that 10-start span. He kind of set that precedent. The other day in Anaheim, he was outstanding. It's tough to complain about anything, but we know he's capable of probably being a little more efficient at times, and getting a little deeper in ballgames."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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