ST. PETERSBURG — People are going to say what they want about RHP Chris Archer's velocity being down, his hair being wild or his focus being too broad.
Archer is going to pitch.
And when he takes the mound today after a pair of rough outings to open the season, the 27-year-old will have no worries — and a specific plan in mind:
"Execute pitches at a higher level — what I'm focused on doing every time I take the mound. Just continue to attack the strike zone, trust my stuff. Because the biggest thing is when you have a bad outing, it's bouncing back and trusting your ability and trusting your stuff. And I've bounced back from tough outings before. It's not a foreign thing. I know and trust that if I fill up the strike zone, I'll get the ultimate goal, and that's a team win."
Archer said he is "not concerned at all" about a 2 mph dropoff from his usual velocity and found discussion about it to be "comical," especially given the cold conditions in Baltimore. He noted that fireballing Rays reliever Enny Romero was clocked at 95 rather than 98 "and nobody wanted to write any headlines about his velocity."
More so than the 0-2, 7.20 record or 20 baserunners allowed in 10 innings, or the lack of command of his fastball or bite on his slider, Archer's grander frustration seems to be with lasting only five innings in each start.
"The past two games I've only gotten 15 outs, so I want to definitely get a lot more outs," he said. "Maybe some more swing and miss on the slider, but most importantly get people out and help the team stay in the ball game and pull out a win."
Manager Kevin Cash said the Blue Jays and Orioles showed patience and restraint against Archer, specifically in not chasing his slider out of the zone.
"I think it will be beneficial … to pick up some early strikes with his fastball to open up the chase on his slider more," he said.
PITCHING IN: Cash confirmed that Saturday is the day the Rays will use their fifth starter, but he wasn't ready to say whom it will be.
By process of elimination, it seems likely to be RHP Erasmo Ramirez, who worked two innings (33 pitches) Wednesday, or another member of the bullpen. Several other relievers are likely to pitch in, assuming they are not needed for extended duty before then.
One previously likely candidate it apparently won't be is RHP Matt Andriese, whom the Rays allowed to throw 93 pitches over 52/3 innings for Triple-A Durham on Wednesday afternoon rather than limit his workload.
K CLUB: The Rays lost for the second time while their pitchers struck out 15 or more. They are the first team to do that twice in their first eight games since at least 1913, when baseball-reference.com data is first available. The Rays had lost that way only nine times in their first 18 seasons.
ON THE CATWALK: Seeing Desmond Jennings' foul ball get stuck in a catwalk, Indians manager Terry Francona said he is always concerned it could change the outcome of a game: "Every time a ball hits one of those catwalks I pull for them to get a new stadium.''
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MISCELLANY: Fox Sports Sun is not televising today's game. … MLB revealed "special event" uniforms, featuring different color schemes and/or designs for Mother's and Father's Day, Memorial Day and July 4. (See the designs on The Heater blog, tampabay.com/blogs/rays). … Cash gave Brandon Guyer a start in rightfield ahead of Steven Souza Jr. since Guyer has had limited opportunities. The Rays are due to face three lefty White Sox starters this weekend. … Cash said at some point they would like to again split up LH starters Matt Moore and Drew Smyly, who ended up back-to-back in the rotation as a result of the shuffling caused by Saturday's rain/snowout.