Chris Archer's one-of-a-kind 2016 campaign included career-highs in losses (19) and homers surrendered (30), but also his second-highest strikeout total (233) and two starkly contrasting halves. His improvement virtually across the board after the All-Star break certainly gave the Rays and fantasy owners hope that the first three-plus months of the season were an extreme outlier for the 28-year-old, who also was victimized by a lack of run support from an anemic offense in several of his defeats. While the long-ball issues were certainly a concern, they too tailed off in the latter portion of the campaign, with his HR/9 rate dropping from 1.47 to 1.18 after the All-Star break. By season's end, Archer had tallied a double-digit K/9 rate (10.4) for the second consecutive campaign and dropped his ERA to a respectable 4.02. Many of the slightly elevated metrics that the hard-throwing righty finished with were largely composed of remnants of his disastrous first half.
Archer, who threw a 30-pitch live batting practice session Tuesday, was very satisfied with the results, Bill Chastain of MLB.com reports. "I was happy overall," Archer said. "First time facing hitters. First time working with Sucre. It was overall a really, really good day." The Rays' ace took a slightly different approach to his session, sitting halfway through his 30-pitch tally so as to simulate a break between innings and then returning to throw his final 15 pitches. Archer is both readying himself for his first action of the spring and his participation in the first round of the World Baseball Classic as a designated pitcher for Team USA.
Archer, who'll pitch for Team USA in the first round of the World Baseball Classic, states that his spring training regimen won't be affected by his participation, Bill Chastain of MLB.com reports. "I've known I was going to play for six months now. When I initially got asked, I said, 'I'm going to play, but we're going to have to make it work.' Just because the pitch count is 65, I don't have to throw 65 pitches. It's just wherever I'm at. However, I'm feeling, we'll get close to that, maybe not all the way to [that count]." Archer is slated to throw four innings and a maximum of 60 pitches in the tournament's opening round, but confirms that the advance notice he received helped insure that it wouldn't alter his normal spring preparation for the regular season. The 28-year-old right-hander was honored by his selection to Team USA, but is also heading into a pivotal campaign following a career-high 19 losses in 2016. While he's happy for Archer's opportunity, manager Kevin Cash is realistic about the impact that participation in the high-intensity environment of the WBC can have, especially given the competitive nature of players the caliber of Archer. "You just worry that they're competing against All-Stars all over the country, all over the world. And it's very tough to tell committed pitchers or athletes to control yourself in those settings. Because that [World Baseball Classic] will be talked about. It will probably take away from Spring Training because it's such a hyped event. So you worry about that."
Archer will play for Team USA in the WBC, Bill Chastain of MLB.com reports. The hard-throwing righty, who logged a team-high 201.1 innings last season, thus figures to get some extra work in heading into what he and the Rays hope will be a resurgent 2017 campaign. Archer's forgettable 2016 first half included a 4-12 record and 4.66 ERA, but he bounced back to generate a 5-7 tally and 3.25 ERA after the All-Star break, along with 103 whiffs over 91.1 innings. Archer will join a talented Team USA pitcher pool that includes the Royals' Danny Duffy and the Nationals' Tanner Roark-- who are already the squad's two designated pitchers for the first round -- as well as the Athletics' Sonny Gray and the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ.
Archer has reportedly been the subject of interest of several teams at the MLB winter meetings, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The 28-year-old right-hander might be coming off the worst season of his career statistically, but his relative youth and blistering fastball still make him an appealing candidate for teams looking to upgrade their starting rotation. Additionally, although he tallied a career-high 19 losses in 2016, Archer finished the season on a strong note, posting a solid 3.25 ERA and .215 average against while recording 103 whiffs over 91.1 second-half innings. While it's unclear what he could fetch in a trade, the Rays are looking for a power bat or two this offseason, which could be part of their asking price.
Archer not only avoided becoming the majors' first 20-loss pitcher since 2003 with a Wednesday victory over the White Sox, he also reached the 200-inning milestone for the second straight season, Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin reports. Archer fired a solid 6.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five. The hard-throwing righty narrowly missed the dubious distinction of becoming the first pitcher to hit the 20-loss mark since the Tigers' Mark Maroth in 2003. By eclipsing 200 innings for the second straight season, Archer joined James Shields, David Price and Matt Garza as the only pitchers in team history to accomplish the feat. That, more than avoiding the aforementioned ignominious benchmark, served as the pitcher's primary motivation in trying to close out a difficult season on a high note. "That was nice because more than anything else I'm trying to make every start, I'm trying to pitch 200 innings. That's my No. 1 priority,'' he said. "So the first half of the season was up and down, but to accomplish that feat was really nice for me personally. But there's still a lot of room to improve.''