Being called up due to an injury is likely a bit unsettling for a young player. While getting the opportunity to appear in the majors is no doubt exciting, there is also the uncertainty of whether or not this promotion is merely for a couple of days, or if it will last for longer. With that kernel of doubt, it may be expected that a younger pitcher may overthrow as he tries to catch the maanger’s attention, and try to force his way into remaining with the big league squad.
Perhaps that is what was plaguing Chris Archer earlier in his recall to the Rays. In his first four starts of the season, Archer had been 1-3 with an ERA of 5.03. He had walked almost as many batters (14) as he had struck out (18). Given that David price was about to return, and his struggles pitching, it appeared as though Archer’s return to the majors may be shortlived.
Yet, his last five games have told a different tale. As Archer appears to be settling in to his spot in the rotation, he has seemed more confident in his pitches, mixing them well and with excellent results. In that time frame, Archer has gone 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA, striking out 22 batters while only issuing seven walks. Even though he has remained animated on the mound, he appears to be in more control not only of his pitches, but f himself as well.
Perhaps the defining moment for Archer trusting his ability to get major league hitters out came against Carlos Pena in Sunday’s game against the Astros. In the fourth, Archer had gone to 3-2 with Pena, his first three ball count of the game. Typically, with a 24 year old pitcher who can throw in the mid to upper 90’s on the mound, one would expect that he would rear back and fire the ball as hard as he could to try to get out of the at bat. Instead, Archer threw a changeup in the dirt, fooling Pena to the point where he was unable to hold his swing.
Archer went back to the well in the ninth. After he gave up a leadoff single, Pena was up again. He got ahead of Pena 1-2, and after two foul balls, Archer got him once again on a change; this time a beautiful 83 MPH pitch that nailed the lower part of the zone. Joe Maddon has said that sometimes it take a shutout to get a pitcher to spring forward to the next step, but it certainly helps when a pitcher begins to trust their stuff at the major league level. That step may have been reached yesterday by Archer.
Perhaps this is the beginning of the next step for Chris Archer. If that is the case, he may be on the verge of becoming yet another top flight starter in the Rays rotation.