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Chris Archer's offseason: From charity work to preparing for WBC

Rays pitcher Chris Archer on Starting Right, Now, a Tampa-based organization he is working with that helps homeless children: “I was blown away by the stuff they do.”
Rays pitcher Chris Archer on Starting Right, Now, a Tampa-based organization he is working with that helps homeless children: “I was blown away by the stuff they do.”
Published Feb. 2, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer, as usual, has been up to more good.

Last weekend he was home in North Carolina for his Archway Foundation banquet, not just smiling for photos and signing autographs but working to expand the reach of the Tampa-based Starting Right, Now, a group that helps homeless children.

This week he is finalizing his workout schedule to be fully prepared for what he considers a thrilling "once in a lifetime" opportunity to represent the United States by pitching in the World Baseball Classic in March.

And as he looks forward to the Rays' Feb. 12 opening of spring training, he is eager to see what other moves his bosses have planned to upgrade a team that traded veterans Drew Smyly and Logan Forsythe for younger, less-proven players this offseason.

"We still have some offseason left, and there's still some things we need to address with our team," Archer said Wednesday after working out at Tropicana Field.

A big deal could be done, with former Orioles catcher Matt Wieters arguably the most interesting name on a long list of free agent bats the Rays are talking with and about. Others include 2016 National League home-run co-champion Chris Carter, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison and, less likely, first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. Infielder Mark Reynolds, who was on their list, took a minor-league deal with the Rockies.

Though the Rays have been active, most of their moves come with questions. Free agent acquisitions Wilson Ramos and Colby Rasmus are coming off surgeries, and the most likely plan to replace Forsythe seems to be moving Brad Miller to second base, where he will pair with August trade acquisition Matt Duffy, who is coming off heel surgery and moving from third base back to shortstop.

"We have some potential to be good," Archer said. "But we're counting on a lot as far as health, and we may be shuffling some guys into positions they're unfamiliar with, so there can always be an adjustment period. If these guys come back healthy, we'll be a good team. But right now it's a lot of hope."

Archer has been awed by working in Tampa with Starting Right, Now, which, under executive director Vicki Sokolik, will expand into Pinellas, taking in homeless youths and hoping to reshape their lives with mentors and support. He made a donation through his foundation and will add to that with each strikeout this season. He also will host the Ted Williams Museum charity dinner Feb. 18 at the Trop.

"I was blown away by the stuff that they do," Archer said of Starting Right, Now. "It's a great organization. Just seeing what Vicki and the rest do for these kids — it's unique, it's one of a kind, and it's not government-funded, so it's even more impressive. It should be a national organization."

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He is just as passionate about the chance to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, confident the schedule — which would have him start pitching competitively during the March 10-12 first round in Miami — won't impact his preparation for the Rays.

Archer will start camp with the Rays and pitch in two or three exhibitions, then leave to join Team USA around March 6, joined by starters Danny Duffy, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman and Tanner Roark.

"It works out perfect," he said. "There may be some minor things adjusted to maybe give myself some extra rest. … I want to represent the USA. It's a once-in-a-lifetime situation. … This is literally the most ideal for me (career-wise) to do this. And I don't want it to negatively affect our team."

In other Rays news:

• Veteran right-handed relievers David Carpenter and Cory Rasmus were signed to minor-leagues deals for spring roster depth. Carpenter, 31, was in Rays camp last year but released. Rasmus, 29, is the younger brother of outfielder Colby, whom the team just signed to one-year deal.

• Right-hander Alex Colome has been added to the list of players expected at Saturday's Fan Fest from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Trop.