ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer was a 20-year-old who hadn't gotten past Class A in three pro seasons when the Indians traded him and two others to the Cubs in December 2008 for veteran INF/OF Mark De Rosa.
Five-plus seasons and another trade later — to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal — Archer takes the mound today against the Indians. He does so as one of the most promising young starters in the game, rewarded by the Rays with a long-term deal that could pay him $43.75 million over eight years.
"Everything that happens in life happens for a reason, and I use this word a lot, but it's divine," Archer said. "If I had stayed in the Indians organization, I don't know if I would be here, I wouldn't be here talking to you guys right now.
"I don't know if I would've had the success I've had. I don't know if I would've learned the lessons through baseball I've learned. So I'm grateful for it. It's hard for me to go back six years ago and think where my mind was. I was (20). I was immature in how things worked. I definitely thought differently about it at the time. But reflecting on it right now, in this moment, there's nothing better that could've happened to my career because I'm here."
Archer, who lost to the Indians in his 2013 debut, has been scuffling, winless over three starts and failing to get past five innings in his past two. In 401/3 innings he has allowed 44 hits, including an unusually high number to right-handers (24-for-66 for a .364 average).
Manager Joe Maddon said the keys are for Archer to improve his fastball command and fine-tune the location of his slider: "He's made a few mistakes at critical moments with that pitch, and normally it's his out pitch."
COBB EYEING A'S: RHP Alex Cobb's followup workout to Friday's simulated game went so well that he is eyeing a return to the rotation on or around May 22 versus Oakland. Cobb, out since April 12 with an oblique strain, has two more tests: a four-inning/60-pitch simulated game Monday in Port Charlotte, then a five-inning rehabilitation start Saturday, location to be determined. "I was scared to kind of envision the finish line (Friday) because I didn't really want to jinx it," Cobb said, "but after throwing the three innings and waking up (Saturday) morning and feeling great and playing catch and feeling great, I can definitely envision the end of this coming relatively soon."
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: RHP Jeremy Hellickson will know today if he had a breakthrough in his rehabilitation from Jan. 29 elbow surgery after throwing five-six curveballs on flat ground in addition to his 40-pitch bullpen session of fastballs and changeups. Hellickson hasn't thrown curveballs since having irritation after doing so in early April and needs to be able to as he targets a late June return. "It does feel a lot better while I was throwing them, but (today) will be the test," he said.
FAMILIAR FACE: RHP Fernando Rodney is off to a good start in Seattle, with 10 saves in 11 chances and told Seattle/Tacoma media he is looking forward to showing the Rays this week they made a mistake in letting him go. "That's my plan," he said. "I was working to stay in Tampa, but they let me go. They didn't sign me back. Now Seattle gave me a chance, and I want to show (the Rays) that I'm ready to continue in my role." Maddon said he'll look forward to visiting with Rodney, preferably not if he's working in the ninth inning: "I hope we don't see him."
MISCELLANY: SS Yunel Escobar played in the 7-1 win over the Indians with no issues from the bruised right thumb that forced him out Friday. … Rays starters have allowed three or fewer runs in eight straight games. … Maddon said he remains committed to using struggling RHP Joel Peralta more frequently. … RHP Grant Balfour and Hellickson will sign autographs for kids from 12:15-12:45 p.m. today.