For ex-Rays pitcher Chris Archer, there’s always plenty to talk about

Now with Pirates, Archer is glad Rays finished ’18 strong, understood the trade, and is still confused about Mayor Rick Kriseman’s tweets.
Rays SS Willy Adames, ex-Rays pitcher Chris Archer share a moment before game in Bradenton Sunday. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Rays SS Willy Adames, ex-Rays pitcher Chris Archer share a moment before game in Bradenton Sunday. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Published March 3, 2019|Updated March 4, 2019

BRADENTON — Chris Archer commutes across the Sunshine Skyway bridge to get to work this spring while still living in his house in St. Petersburg. He notes he’s “a patron” of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s city, which we’ll come back to later.

There are times when Archer stops for coffee or food and a fan will ask how he thinks his Rays team is going to do this year. He’ll shrug, waiting for them to say something else, or remember that he’s with the Pirates after last season’s July 31 trade.

But Archer can understand. He needed some time himself to adjust after seven-plus years in the Tampa Bay organization.

“It took a little while ’cause I was still staying in touch with a lot of the guys I’m cool with, still staying in touch with some of the coaches,’’ he said. “But after a couple weeks, I was focused strictly on being a Pirate.’’

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Talking in the Pirates clubhouse for 30 minutes Sunday morning, Archer was all about getting along and being positive. He would soon see his ex-mates for the first time to share hugs and stories

His hair bursting out of a restraint and his ego somewhat in check, Archer made clear he had no grudges over the deal, no issues with Rays fans, and no beefs, Twitter or otherwise, with Kriseman.

Archer said he was glad to see the Rays do so well after he left last season, going 36-19 to finish with 90 wins and just shy of a playoff spot. The 30-year-old right-hander insisted he didn’t feel he was missing out.

Pirates pitcher Chris Archer chatted with his former boss, Rays manager Kevin Cash before Sunday's game. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]
Pirates pitcher Chris Archer chatted with his former boss, Rays manager Kevin Cash before Sunday's game. [MARC TOPKIN | Times]

“Not really because some of the pitchers that were there I had a huge influence on, and even the position players,’’ he said. “So I felt like they did phenomenal. … I felt like I was still part of it honestly. And I was super happy for them.’’

As disruptive as the trade was, Archer said he needed only to hear the return to know why the Rays finally decided to move him, getting back starter Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows and pitching prospect Shane Baz.

“They were transparent for the last two years; they weren’t going to trade me unless the value was maxed all the way out,’’ Archer said. “And they got some really good players. …

“I mean, I was flattered. That’s why when I walked in this clubhouse, I felt like at home because they really wanted me. You give up three dudes like that, you like the person, you like their ability, like their character, everything. It just seemed like a really smart move on both parts. … A no-brainer.’’

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Archer wasn’t having that great of a season: 3-5 record with a 4.31 ERA in 17 starts with the Rays, with 1.385 walks and hits per inning and 3.29 strikeouts per walk. He sandwiched all of that around a stint on the disabled list for an abdominal strain.

He tried to change his approach some after the trade, but the results weren’t appreciably better: 3-3, 4.30 in 10 starts, with a 1.357 WHIP and a 3.33 ratio.

He noted a difference in style with Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage and the Rays’ Kyle Snyder (“Kyle is more analytical”), and in organizational philosophy. The Pirates are more into inducing early contact whereas the Rays liked strikeouts. He also tried to reduce the use of his most potent pitch, slider, figuring it would be more effective if seen less.

“It wasn’t like the Rays made me do anything, but when I got here, I really challenged myself just to be more complete,’’ he said. “It had nothing to do with the Rays or the Pirates. I just recognized I needed to make a change.’’

Having undergone hernia surgery in November with the abdominal strain a recurring issue, Archer remains confident about reaching that elite level he craves. He twice has earned All-Star status while posting a career won-loss mark of 57-71 and a 3.72 ERA.

As he prepares to make his spring training debut Tuesday, he sounds a tad humbled about it.

“I’ve always felt like I was in a position,’’ he said. “It’s been on me. I’ve done things that are really good. And I think I made a lot of growth toward the end of last season. So I’m looking forward to this year, and being healthy.’’

Okay, so back to the mayor.

Archer felt he was making a logical point when asked by Spectrum Sports about the Rays attendance problems and their long-term viability in the market. He said a lot of good things about St. Petersburg and the team’s fans, but he noted the lack of population density as a major issue.

So he was surprised when Kriseman responded to a tweeted clip of his comments by making it personal, posting, “I love our friend @ChrisArcher22, but his 19 games lost in a season didn’t help attendance. :) #RaysUp’’

“We’re watching the person in the highest seat and how he handles things via social media … a political influencer taking a personal jab,’’ Archer said. “I know that Rick’s not a bad dude, or at least he’s never come off bad to me. But for some reason he felt like I was speaking to him. All I was saying is a fact. … I was just trying to give a logical answer, and he felt like it was a personal attack, and it wasn’t at all.’’

There was another round of tweets, ending with Kriseman wishing Archer a “great” season. Archer said he hasn’t heard from Kriseman since, noting “I don’t think he was apologetic for what he said.’’

Maybe they’ll run into each other grabbing coffee at Kahwa. There could be plenty to talk about.

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.