Chris Archer on starting Rays opener: ‘It means the world’

The right-hander will make his fourth straight opening day start on Thursday, a Rays record.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer walks the outfield Tuesday during a workout Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Archer will make his fourth straight opening day start for the Rays, a team record, on Thursday [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Rays pitcher Chris Archer walks the outfield Tuesday during a workout Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Archer will make his fourth straight opening day start for the Rays, a team record, on Thursday [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Mar. 29, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer will do something today that Cy Young Award-winner David Price never did, or James Shields, or Scott Kazmir, or any of the top pitchers who preceded him — make a fourth straight opening day start.

"It means the world,'' Archer, 29, said of the assignment. "Honestly, it never gets old. Very fortunate. Very blessed. Been surrounded by a lot of good people to help me get to this point. I love opening the season for this pitching-rich organization.''

Archer is 1-2, 3.57 previously in the opening day spotlight, having beaten the Yankees last year, and said he tries to treat his preparation the same as for any other game but "obviously it's not.''

An additional factor today could be how long Archer works. He was knocked out of Friday's spring finale after 59 of his scheduled 100-plus pitches when he was hit on the right forearm by a comebacker.

Archer will match Shields with four opening day starts overall for the Rays. Price made three.

Hudson released, roster finalized
Following the acquisition of INF/OF Rob Refsnyder, the Rays on Wednesday finalized their 25-man roster, most notably by releasing RHP Daniel Hudson, and paying him $4.5 million — with the Pirates covering the other $1 million of his salary. The Rays had to take back Hudson in the trade of OF Corey Dickerson, but they felt good enough about getting unheralded prospect INF Tristan Gray that they were willing to eat the money if they couldn't find a trade. … Though Refsnyder has a .233 career average and .617 OPS in 126 big-league games over three seasons, manager Kevin Cash said the Rays got him for his right-handed bat and overall offensive approach: "Hits the ball hard, not a big power guy, contact approach, really hits a lot of line drives.''

More on Eovaldi
RHP Nathan Eovaldi seemed to put a good finish Monday on what had been an impressive spring in his bid to make a somewhat rare comeback from a second Tommy John surgery as a starter, firing 98 mph fastballs in his sixth and final inning. But Tuesday evening he felt some discomfort in his right elbow, and a Wednesday morning exam found "loose bodies'' that need to be removed via arthroscopic surgery. Eovaldi, the No. 3 starter, will have it done this week by team orthopedist Dr. Koco Eaton, and he could join the Rays sometime in June.

McKay a Hot Rod, not Stone Crab
The Rays took a conservative approach in assigning LHP/1B Brandon McKay to Class A Bowling Green — rather than the more advanced Port Charlotte-based Stone Crabs — for the next step in his experiment to be a two-way player. … Former big-leaguer Jim Morrison won't manage the Stone Crabs as planned. The Rays announced he was taking a medical leave. Reinaldo Ruiz moves up to Charlotte from Bowling Green, Craig Albernaz from Hudson Valley to Bowling Green and Blake Butera takes over at Hudson Valley

• For the first time since 2008, Evan Longoria won't be batting third and wearing No. 3 in the Rays lineup, having been traded in December to the Giants. "I'm sure it will be a little weirder for him with all the years and all the foundation he built here," 1B Brad Miller said.
• Tampa raised OF Denard Span said he was "very excited" to play his first true home game after 10 years in the majors and that it probably wouldn't really hit him until today. Among 20 plus friends and relatives in the stands will be his mom: "I'm very positive that she will make her presence be known."
• The Rays announced details for Saturday's 20th anniversary of the March 31, 1998, first game in franchise history, with 20 members of the inaugural team expected, unveiling of a 20th anniversary exhibit at the Trop and wearing of the throwback Devil Rays jerseys.
• The anniversary celebration brings back good memories for Boston starter Chris Sale, a Lakeland native who attended that first game as a 9-year-old with his uncle. "I sat just to the left of (Section) 144," Sale said, pointing to the rightfield seats. "I had a Rays jersey on. My uncle bought me a polo with Rays colors, the blue and the green and the white, and I got mustard on it. That's where the jersey came from. I actually have a panoramic picture at my house of the first pitch being thrown here."