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Best overall starting staff in majors? Chris Archer says it’s Rays

Others might disagree, but the pitcher says they have the depth to come out on top
Chris Archer has the Rays aiming high this season. [CHRIS URSO | TAMPA BAY TIMES]
Chris Archer has the Rays aiming high this season. [CHRIS URSO | TAMPA BAY TIMES]
Published Feb. 15, 2018|Updated Feb. 15, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays tend to always be built on good starting pitching.

And top starter RHP Chris Archer believes they have one of the best overall staffs in the game.

"We have some very dynamic arms in this room," Archer said before Wednesday's spring-opening workout. "I'm willing to put it up against everybody in the league.

"In order for us to back it up, we have to produce. And I think everybody in here is capable of doing that."

As the Rays line up today, they would have a rotation of Archer, RHP Jake Odorizzi, LHP Blake Snell, RHP Nathan Eovaldi and either RHP Matt Andriese or RHP Jake Faria, with prospects RHP Yonny Chirinos, RHP Jose De Leon, RHP Brent Honeywell and LHP Ryan Yarbrough pushing for an opportunity. That could change, however, as Odorizzi seems likely to be traded as the team looks to trim salary.

The Astros, Dodgers, Indians and Nationals might be among those who disagree, but Archer is undeterred.

"I'm excited," he said. "I know there's a lot of pitching staffs out there excited about what they have, but as far as our depth, one through seven, eight, nine even 10 guys — we're going to have three or four guys in Triple A who should be starting in the big leagues somewhere for somebody. I'll put it up against anybody, and at the end of the season we can look up the numbers and see how we all fared."

Upping the tempo
The Rays unveiled several tweaks to their practice routine to increase energy, eliminate down time and simulate game action, with an emphasis on getting more done in less time. Most interesting was the "pretty drastic" move of putting 8-foot high screens across the infield to get hitters to hit more line drives and flies than ground balls. "Just talking about launch angle — don't want you to do anything different, but recognize getting it over the screen," manager Kevin Cash said. Also, using rubberized (and thus not as hard) balls that were hit more sharply at pitchers during fielding practice and having pitchers taking throws at the bases, rather than coaches, playing the role of infielders. Cash credited coaches Rocco Baldelli and Matt Quatraro for coming up with the plan after surveying much of the organization on what to try different.

From the manager's office
Among those Cash praised: Chirinos, who threw for the major-league staff for the first time after his strong Triple-A season; veteran LHP Jonny Venters, who was "probably most raved about" as he continues his comeback attempt from "3½" Tommy John surgeries; and Eovaldi, who has impressed all winter and Cash is eager to see face hitters.

Quote of the day
"Not having Evan (Longoria) and (Alex) Cobb is different, but to be quite honest we've had so much time to digest it, we've turned the page."
Archer, on the loss of the two key veterans

Quote of the day, Sergio Romo division
"I'm not going to do a Happy Gilmore and take one off the head."
RHP Romo, on reacting to balls hit during fielding practice

• RHP J.D. Martin, who last pitched in the majors in 2010, was signed to work in minor-league camp with knuckleball guru Charlie Heager.
• Visa-delayed C Jesus Sucre the only absentee among the 44 pitchers and catchers, and 17 of the 24 position players were in camp early.
• The Rays switched from Pepsi to Coke products at Tropicana Field. Though Pepsi owns the Tropicana brand, the switch is independent of the naming rights deal, which runs through 2027, and has no impact.
• A decision on Odorizzi's arbitration case is expected Thursday, with the panel deciding between his $6.35 million request and the team's $6.05 million offer.

The dish
The Rays have opened spring training in Port Charlotte, with workouts daily at 10:30 a.m., lasting about 2½ hours and continuing through Feb. 22 at the Charlotte Sports Park (2300 El Jobean Road). For more information, call (941) 235-5025.


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