PORT CHARLOTTE – This, eventually, may be a love story.
But even in expressing affection for the other on a Wednesday celebrating the two-in-one holiday of spring training opening and Valentine's Day, current Rays top starter Chris Archer and potential future ace Brent Honeywell tossed more than verbal bouquets.
Archer, expanding his role as leader of the staff, made clear he'd prefer Honeywell, 22, stop bragging to everyone who asks, and some who didn't, about how good he thinks he can be right now in the big leagues:
"He talks a lot. I've already told him, until he gets some dirt on his spikes, he needs to keep it down a bit. I'm excited to see him pitch, but you can't do all that talking without ever throwing a major-league baseball in your life.''
And Honeywell, after making it to Triple-A last season with some success, made it clearer he doesn't need Archer worrying about mentoring him when he should be focusing on improving his own game, having posted three
straight losing seasons with an ERA pushing 4.00:
"I think the biggest thing is for the ace of the staff right now to be the ace, you've got to throw up some numbers out there. Impress me. Impress me. I'm not taking any shots at anybody. I'm not cutting him down. But I think that would benefit in the best way possible. … It's time to go now. This is go time for him this year.''
Talking on different sides of the Rays clubhouse before Wednesday's first workout, both spoke in conversational tones, sprinkling in qualifying statements about how much they like and think of each other, and weren't intending to be negative. "Mad love and respect for him,'' Archer said.
Heck, they'd gone out to dinner in Port Charlotte on Tuesday night, along with Blake Snell, and had what all said was a great time and exchange of ideas.
It's just that both are strong-willed personalities who feel they know the right way to do things. And it's clear they are going to have, at the least, an interesting relationship.
Archer, 29, has been leading the staff the last couple years, those duties growing given the departure of veteran Alex Cobb (and potentially Jake Odorizzi) combined with the number of young pitchers on the staff.
The leading he does by example with his extensive workouts, strict diet and dedication is most obvious. Also, he started a group text chain to send motivational messages and winter workout reminders. Provides advice and counsel on how to handle situations on and off the field, such telling a struggling Snell last year he just needed to breath and relax. Is generous to rookies with his time and other assets, such as picking up a dinner tab or buying a suit. (Plus, he seems to be learning compared to his 2016 too-public admonition of Snell and Jake Faria for not being early enough to a
Archer knows Honeywell has the chance to indeed be good – and thus help the Rays win more. He just wants Honeywell to accept that he's not the first promising prospect who may get held back, and that he doesn't have to keep running his mouth to make his case publicly.
"Every time he gets asked a question, he says the same thing,'' Archer said. "I like the confidence, but just let the game talk now. Let the game talk. …
"I don't go around flexing at all. And I have some accomplishments that I could, but I don't because I don't need to.''
Honeywell is equal opportunity indifferent, insisting he doesn't need Archer or anyone to assist him, and that even though he hasn't made the majors yet, he actually can help the other more experienced pitchers on the team.
"Honestly, I know how to do things and I don't need anybody to hold my hand,'' Honeywell said. "We were actually talking about it (Tuesday) when we were sitting down to eat, and I was like, listen, man, I think the key thing is don't forget why you're here. We can do it. We can handle ourselves. Then again, you'll know when we need you. Just like you'll know when you'll need me. Or you need Blake or you need Faria. …
"That's how you have to look at it – don't let it be one guy who mentors everybody, let it be everybody helping everybody.''
Love is definitely in the air.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow TBTimes_Rays