Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays: Archer Rejoins Team from WBC Amidst Controversy

By Althea Pashman
Feb 26, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Keeping with the plan set upon his selection to the WBC, Chris Archer returned to camp so that he stays on schedule as the Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day starter against the Yankees.

In the course of the past week, Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer left camp to join Team USA in Miami for their opening contest against Columbia. He pitched four solid innings, throwing just 41 pitches in the contest, declined to pitch more than the innings and or pitch count set and has returned to spring training to pick up where he left off.

Although Archer did not get the win, Team USA won the opening game 3-2 in comeback fashion, but it was Archer that made a strong statement when he stayed true to his plans – he was done after four-innings, regardless of the set pitch-count.

Archer knows who butters his bread, and was correct by adhering to the plan that had been agreed upon in advance of the start of the World Baseball Classic, when officials from the WBC including manager Jim Leyland, along with Manager Kevin Cash and Archer set it up.

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But it was a bit of surprise and maybe even some ensuing controversy was that after coming out of the game, Archer went to the bullpen and threw his additional pitches, which would have essentially been accomplished during the game had he stayed in.

Additionally, Leyland during his post game talk gave the impression that Archer’s pitch limit was news to him, and that Archer’s departure put the team “behind the eight ball a little bit” with its bullpen.

Following the game, Archer told Daniel Kramer of MLB.com:

"“It was tough. Looking in [manager] Jim Leyland’s eyes and telling him that I had to shut it down, it was tough,” Archer said. “But I’m obligated to the Tampa Bay Rays. We had a plan coming in. We knew that was a possibility. … I’m glad [Leyland] didn’t put too much pressure on me to stay in, but it was definitely tough.”"

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was a bit critical of Archer’s leaving the game and does not blame him, but puts blames on the Tampa Bay Rays and other teams stating that they care less about the WBC by putting bigger restrictions on them and in some cases even discouraging players from participating.

On a side note, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays voiced their concerns to the Dominican Republic team officials about having used Alex Colome in back-to-back games, when they had agreed earlier not to do so.

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Since Team USA did not win their group, they now must play on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and have asked Archer and the Rays if he would consider switching his schedule to be available to pitch. Archer outright declined, stating that he was sticking to the Rays and his plan to remain on schedule so that he could stay on track to pitch Opening Day.

Archer’s schedule has him slated to pitch on Thursday, but the Rays do not have a spring game scheduled, so the plan is for him to pitch in a minor league game. It is an important date on his pitching schedule, as he would be increasing not only his innings but his pitch count as well.

There is still an outside chance that Archer could return to Team USA, that being only if they reach the Championships of the WBC where he would then become available to pitch on March 22, which incidentally following Thursday’s minor league game would be his next one. However, for right now, Archer is back and ready to continue with his teammates in preparation for the upcoming season.

Next: Bring Back Jason Coats on Minor League Deal

Because of the WBC, Archer has been on a special accelerated schedule.  However, this spring more than ever is a bit different as he not only needed to get ready for the once in a lifetime opportunity to pitch for Team USA but to prove that the 2016 was an aberration and nothing more.

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