PORT CHARLOTTE — Chris Archer is testament — and a testimony — to the effort it takes to be a successful big-leaguer, having been introduced shortly after joining the Rays to the starting pitchers' legacy of arriving early and working hard.
So when he saw young prospects Jacob Faria and Blake Snell stroll into the clubhouse a half-hour before the 9 a.m. start of Sunday's first workout of the spring, Archer seized the opportunity to deliver a tone-setting message.
"You need to be here at least 7:30," he said with a group of reporters in front of him. "(Alex) Cobb was here at 6 a.m. I was here at 6:30. James Shields was here first. David Price was here first. Those are All-Stars, Cy Young (winners), $217 million (Price's contract). You guys are the last two pitchers here. You guys have zero service time. You got no right to be coming in after me, really. I get here super early. I wouldn't expect you to be here at 6:30. But 8:30?"
Faria and Snell, attending big-league camp for the first time, took the public scolding — or, as Archer preferred to call it, educating — well.
They said they didn't know better, appreciated Archer pointing it out right away and assured it won't happen again. Faria even thanked Archer on Twitter: "I'm here to learn from the best because I want to be the best. Appreciate you taking me under your wing Arch."
Archer's method is debatable — he could have dressed them down in private — but his message was right on. Longtime big-leaguer Al Leiter even gave his approval on Twitter: "Love this kid. Help establish the right culture. In a time when players don't want to rock the boat. Chris way to go."
Last year, with Shields and Price gone, and Cobb lost for the season with an elbow injury, Archer not only developed into an ace but also the leader of the pitching staff. "I talked to (Price), and he said to lead by example," Archer, 27, said. "So I just let my actions speak more. If there is a case like that, some things need to be addressed face-to-face, or head-on. But everything else is by example — performance, really. Performance gives you the platform in the clubhouse to accomplish things off the field as well."
Manager Kevin Cash said team officials welcome Archer's influence: "We like what he's about. Archer would be the one to tell you he comes about it naturally. It's not something he feels he has to force. And that's why he's pretty special.
"Guys kind of follow him a little bit with his work ethic. And he's very thought-out when he speaks, when he's talking in a large group or individually. And that's really when guys seem to flock to him a little bit."
As many quality arms as the Rays have — and they have plenty, from Archer to prospects such as Faria, Snell and Taylor Guerrieri — they know talent alone isn't enough to carry them back to postseason contention.
Health is vital, as they saw last year when besieged by injury, and a thing over which they have little control. But hard work they can do something about. Archer, as he showed Sunday, will make sure that message gets out, confident they have the opportunity to rank among the best.
"We have to prove it," Archer said. "We're going to have to put in some work. There are some things that all of us need to get better at. There is that possibility to be one of the best starting staffs that we've ever had."
That certainly would be saying something.