BALTIMORE — Rays All-Star ace Chris Archer has not been throwing the ball where he wants to in his first two starts, a primary reason he is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA while allowing 15 hits (including four homers) and five walks in 10 innings. The right-hander also has not been throwing the ball as hard as he typically does.
Archer has shown a slight dropoff in his fastball velocity, averaging 93.2 mph per fangraphs.com, compared to 95 mph in 2015, even in his early-season starts.
Archer said he feels "great," which would seem to eliminate any physical issue, and manager Kevin Cash also said he is fine.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey said he didn't see anything to be too concerned about, suggesting it could be the product of Archer's schedule. He didn't pitch in a regular exhibition after March 14, with a March 19 rainout forcing him to throw in the batting cage, then to avoid facing opening day foe Toronto he pitched in a Triple-A exhibition and an intrasquad game.
"I'm not concerned other than any level of concern that you have when any one of your starters has a little bit of a struggle to start the year, but no high level of concern," Hickey said.
"I'd like to see a little more of the velocity. But he threw the first outing at home after basically not really facing major-league hitters for two weeks, his last three outings. And after the rough first inning (against Toronto last Sunday) he was pretty sharp, so that takes away a lot of that concern.
"And then (Friday) being outside for the first time and being in any kind of elements, that kind of discounted (his struggles) maybe a little bit. It's kind of unusual he would allow the home runs like that, but it happens to the best of them."
Also of note, Archer has not won since Aug. 31, going 0-5 with a 6.15 ERA and 1.78 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
CATCHING ON: Back at the scene of his prime catch last season, Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier isn't afraid to share a little secret.
His Aug. 31 gravity-defying, headline-grabbing, home-run robbing, painting-inspiring and, at least in part, Gold Glove-clinching catch off Baltimore's Manny Machado at Camden Yards was not all talent and athleticism.
"I couldn't feel the warning track very well with my feet, so I just jumped and hoped for the best," Kiermaier said. "It ended up looking great by video standards, but I know there was a lot of skill with some luck that went into it. It was a perfectly placed ball for me to make that catch, and I'm just very happy I made it."
The design of low outfield walls also helped Kiermaier make what he considers his best grab to this point.
MISCELLANY: The Rays and Orioles have a common off-day in advance of their June 24-26 series but playing them would make for 27 straight days of play going into the All-Star break. … The Rays pitchers' 52 strikeouts are their most ever through five games. … Rays relievers have combined for a 1.08 ERA.