Tampa Bay Rays call up Chris Archer to add pitching depth

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer joins the Rays today, recalled to give the team a potential spot starter to spell RHP Alex Cobb this month.

Archer, 23, was impressive in a short stint with Tampa Bay in June, going 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA. He was 7-9 with a 3.66 ERA in 25 starts for Triple-A Durham.

Manager Joe Maddon said Cobb probably will have three starts left as the team monitors his workload because he has reached a career high in innings. So Archer provides an option to fill in for him.

Cobb threw 120 innings last season between Durham and Tampa Bay, and he is at 155 combined innings now. Though Cobb said before Tuesday's start against the Yankees that his arm feels as good as it has all year, the Rays intend to play it safe with their young pitcher.

Maddon made it clear it's not a hard-and-fast rule or a strict innings limit, saying part of the plan depends on how much Cobb has to labor in his innings, and the team hasn't thought about his possible use in the playoffs.

GOING DEEP: Considering RHP Jeremy Hellickson has had his struggles with home runs (23) this season, allowing more than he had all of last year (21), he knows he's in for a challenge tonight against the Rangers.

Texas — which going into Thursday led the majors in runs, hits, total bases, average and slugging percentage — has six players with at least 15 homers.

"I've given up my share of home runs this year, and this team — they've got me a few times," Hellickson said. "That'll be the biggest thing (tonight), keeping the ball in the ballpark."

Hellickson last faced the Rangers in Game 4 of the AL Division Series, when he gave up three homers, two to 3B Adrian Beltre, in a season-ending loss.

"One through nine, they're going to hurt you," Hellickson said. "They've got guys who will get on base for the guys in the middle of the order, and they're not guys you can take lightly, either. It's a tough team, and you've got to be on your game."

Hellickson has allowed two homers in each of his past two starts, and his 1.42 homers-per-nine-innings ratio is the eighth highest in the league. Though his numbers (8-10, 3.41 ERA) are a bit off from his 2011 rookie of the year campaign, it's not that he has pitched poorly. In his past six losses, the Rays scored a total of six runs. They have scored two or fewer in nine of his 10 losses.

Maddon said Hellickson's "stuff" is as good or better than last year despite the results. Maddon believes it's similar to the situation that involved LHP David Price, whose numbers dropped in 2011 from his 2010 runnerup finish for the AL Cy Young but was pitching better.

Hellickson was sidelined this year with shoulder fatigue and also got hit in the leg by a line drive, injuries that could have thrown him off, Maddon said.

"His season has been interrupted, that's been part of the problem," Maddon said. "There's been interruptions, and I think that more than anything has been probably frustrating. But purely as physical ability is concerned, I see better right now than what he had been last year."

Tampa Bay Rays call up Chris Archer to add pitching depth 09/06/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 6, 2012 9:58pm]

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