Pitcher Chris Archer set to rejoin Rays this weekend

Rays notes | A role is still to be determined for the right-hander sidelined since April with a forearm issue.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer, second from right, hands the ball to manager Kevin Cash, right, as he is taken out of a game against the New York Yankees after getting injured in April at Tropicana Field.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer, second from right, hands the ball to manager Kevin Cash, right, as he is taken out of a game against the New York Yankees after getting injured in April at Tropicana Field. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Aug. 19, 2021|Updated Aug. 19, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer looked good while throwing 71 pitches over 4-2/3 innings Tuesday for Triple-A Durham in his sixth rehab start and told his Rays bosses he was very excited about how he felt.

Now, perhaps as soon as Sunday, it will be time to see how Archer does back in the majors for the first time since April.

Archer is headed to St. Petersburg Thursday to meet with Rays officials to map out a plan, including what role he will be used in when likely activated this weekend off the 60-day injured list.

Archer signed a $6.5 million free-agent contract after sitting out 2020 with Pittsburgh recovering from surgery but pitched only twice for the Rays, leaving an April 10 start with forearm tightness.

Soon after, he left the team for about a month to join his family in North Carolina and deal with the eventual death of his mother, Donna, on May 1. He started his rehab July 12, then had a further delay when he left an Aug. 1 outing with hip soreness.

“It sounded liked the velocity ticked up, trending in the right direction a little bit. But still think there’s more there,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s had a pretty unique build up, shut down, build back up. So we were excited.

“Talking to Arch, he felt that his slider was really good. He would like to (have) thrown a little bit better slider later in the outing, but he still got to a point where he hadn’t been in a long time of five (innings started).”

How the Rays use Archer will be interesting, whether as a traditional starter, multi-inning opener, to cover bulk innings, or as a straight reliever.

Sunday is Josh Fleming’s day, so they could team up. Also of note, Michael Wacha, who has had three straight bad starts, will get a chance Friday against the White Sox to make a pitch to keep his job.

With Ryan Yarbrough returning Wednesday from the COVID-19-related injured list and Drew Rasmussen pitching his way into the rotation (likely starting Tuesday in Philadelphia), the Rays look to have several options.

2022 spring schedule set

The Rays will open the 2022 exhibition season Feb. 26 against the Pirates in Bradenton and close it March 29 at Tropicana Field against the Phillies, playing 15 home games in between at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte. Game times and ticket information will be released at a future date. The Rays will open their 14th spring in Port Charlotte with pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 15. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 21.

The Rays released their 2022 spring schedule today.
The Rays released their 2022 spring schedule today. [ Special to the Times - Tampa Bay Rays ]

Chris Ellis says hello, goodbye

Chris Ellis was called up Monday, worked the final four innings Tuesday in his second big-league outing (first since March 2019) to get his first win, then was designated for assignment on Wednesday. Ellis, like Evan Phillips last week, was promoted because of the open spot on the 40-man roster with Yarbrough on the COVID list. But with Yarbrough returning Wednesday, the Rays needed space on the 40- and 26-man active roster. That meant the end for Ellis who, with a minor-league option remaining, seems likely to get claimed. “To see a guy like Chris Ellis come up here and provide what he provided (Wednesday), it’s fantastic,” pitching coach Kyle Snyder said. “I look forward to seeing him pitch on TV here shortly.”

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• Rookie Wander Franco extended his on-base streak to 20 games, the second-longest active streak behind Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper (24 going into play).

• Rookie Randy Arozarena extended his hitting streak to 10 games, hitting .500 (19-for-38) during the run, and his on-base streak to 17 games.

• J.P. Feyereisen and Ryan Thompson, both out with shoulder issues, threw an inning each for Durham Wednesday. So did just-signed veteran David Robertson.

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