ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer is set to not just return to active duty for the Rays, but he will start Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox.
Archer has pitched only twice this season, sidelined since leaving an April 10 start with forearm tightness. Soon after that he left the team for a month to be with family in North Carolina, dealing with the May 1 death of his mother. And after beginning his rehab assignment July 12, he had a further delay due to left hip soreness that forced him out of a planned Aug. 1 start.
Archer threw a bullpen session Friday and, assuming he feels good Saturday, will be activated.
“It’s nice to have him back in the conversation, back in the mix,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Hopefully Arch can get this season going. It’s been kind of late, a long time for him, understandably. But we know if he’s right, he can certainly help us in these next 45 days or so that are going to be pretty important.”
Cash said the Rays made the decision to start Archer, rather than have him work behind an opener or in a planned tandem with Josh Fleming, who was in line to pitch, based on his comfort in that role.
“Just that’s kind of what he’s done,” Cash said. “Trying to give a lane here for him to get comfortable with some sort of routine.”
Archer threw 71 pitches and 4 2/3 innings Tuesday with Triple-A Durham and will be slated for a similar workload Sunday.
“In fairness, I think there’s still more to be built up from, he can still add more pitches,” Cash said. “I think his stuff, we’re probably naturally going to see a little uptick and everything just pitching in a big-league game. I certainly hope so. And then we’ll take it from there.”
Fleming, who threw 101 pitches over 5 2/3 innings Monday, will shift to the bullpen and be available Saturday and Sunday. With Monday and Thursday off next week, the Rays will have some time to rest pitchers and reshuffle their rotation, as they have added Archer and Drew Rasmussen.
Reliever Pete Fairbanks, out since late July with shoulder issues, came through a Thursday live batting practice in Port Charlotte well and will start a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Durham. … Reliever Ryan Thompson, also working back from a shoulder injury, had two walks and two strikeouts in rehab inning for Durham.
As the bullpen door turns
The Rays shuffled their relief staff again Friday to add a fresh arm, sending down lefty Dietrich Enns, who worked three innings Thursday, and calling up righty Chris Mazza. … Right-hander Chris Ellis — who was called up Monday, worked four innings Tuesday for his first career win, then was designated for assignment Wednesday — was claimed by the Orioles.
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⋅ Wander Franco extended his on-base streak to 22 games, and Randy Arozarena extended his to 19.
⋅ The weekend series is not only a homecoming for Tampa-born White Sox manager Tony La Russa, but also bench coach Miguel Cairo, who was an original Devil Ray and long-time area resident, and infielder Yoan Moncada, who settled in Gulfport after leaving Cuba.
⋅ Tyler Glasnow has returned to St. Petersburg to do his rehab from Aug. 4 Tommy John elbow surgery, so he will be at Tropicana Field on Saturday for his bobblehead giveaway.
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