Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Chris Archer sharp even after foot is stepped on

Lake Buena Vista — RHP Chris Archer's outing Friday got off to a scary start, as the first batter he faced, Braves RF Jayson Heyward, stepped on the top of his right foot as he covered first base on a grounder.

Archer's foot felt numb, and athletic trainer Paul Harker and Rays manager Joe Maddon went out to check on him.

"I was like, 'I hope this is not a Tim Hudson incident,' " Archer said of the then-Braves right-hander who broke his ankle last season after it was trampled by the Mets' Eric Young. "Because Jayson Heyward is a big dude, and he was coming full speed."

Archer said his foot quickly felt better, and he stayed in the game. He allowed one run over 4⅔ innings, scattering four hits and striking out six while walking one. Through three outings, Archer has a 0.90 ERA.

"He's been really amazing," C Jose Molina said. "Just catching him, it's unbelievable, the ball coming out of his hand."

Maddon said he was "very impressed," and Molina particularly liked Archer's changeup.

Archer said he didn't have his "A-plus stuff" but was encouraged that he pitched into the fifth on 74 pitches, holding his own against a third straight strong lineup that included Heyward, CF B.J. Upton and 1B Freddie Freeman.

"He's definitely got it," said Upton, a former Ray. "Seeing him over time, he's got better control of everything. Early on, he was a lot of fastballs, his breaking stuff had a little bit to come. But now he's definitely got control of everything."

DECISION TIME: Maddon said the team should have a "good idea" after today who will be the fifth starter. All three remaining candidates will pitch: LHP Erik Bedard in Port Charlotte, and RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Cesar Ramos in Bradenton. Maddon said it's possible they could each have another appearance, but "it's going to start becoming clearer for us."

FINALLY HERE: RHP Juan Carlos-Oviedo, delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic, was scheduled to arrive in Florida on Friday and be at camp today. He has been throwing to hitters in the Dominican Republic, but Maddon said he needs game situations. His first appearance will be either Sunday or Tuesday. Maddon said Oviedo could have four to five outings to see if he's ready for opening day but acknowledged, "he's pretty much right on the line of being able to do this or not." Oviedo's status could impact who else makes the bullpen. "Things can change, would change, depending on where he's at," Maddon said.

TEST RUN: Five players, including 3B Evan Longoria, 2B Ben Zobrist and 1B James Loney, went to Tropicana Field on Friday with hitting coach Derek Shelton to see how the recently renovated batter's eye backdrop works. "It's more curiosity that it would be sufficient, that they thought, 'Okay, I saw the ball well,' " Maddon said.

GAME DETAILS: RHP Sam Runion gave up four runs in the eighth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves. Maddon said he really liked CF Desmond Jennings' at-bats for the Rays (8-4-2).

MISCELLANY: RHP Jeremy Hellickson threw Friday in Port Charlotte for a second time since Jan. 29 elbow surgery, 25 throws again at 45-60 feet. "It felt just as good," Hellickson said. "I was a little achy Wednesday night, but then (Thursday) it felt as good as it has been." … LHP Jake McGee pitched in a minor-league game Friday against the Twins Triple-A team, allowing one hit, one run in one inning, with one strikeout (20 pitches, 11 strikes).

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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