ST. PETERSBURG — Now that he has experienced his first big-league Opening Day and signed his first long-term contract, Tampa Bay Rays RHP Chris Archer finally can get to work tonight when he makes his 2014 debut in the series finale against the Blue Jays.
“I was thinking (Tuesday), I'm so ready to pitch. I'm so ready to get on the mound and compete and have it mean something,” Archer said. “Spring training is fun, but that's getting your body in shape. I'm totally in shape now, mind and body. I'm ready to go out there and execute pitches.”
Archer, 25, signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract Wednesday that also has two option years, which can raise the value to $43.75 million.
“It's outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you get that commitment both ways, from the owners to the player and the player's commitment back to the organization, my first thought is, that's the way to become consistent in regards to winning and establishing a tradition. Great moment for both sides, and I'm really happy for Archer and his family.”
Maddon said Archer has the ability to be one of the top pitchers in the league based on his pitch selection, his smarts and his dedication.
When asked where he could improve, Archer said, “I'd like to replicate my best days, but I realize the true sign of a successful pitcher is, what do you have on the day when you're not at your best? What's your B game like? What's your C game like? I think that's where pitchers like David Price make a name for themselves. That's how you become a Cy Young.”
Will he change?
RHP Alex Cobb said he doesn't think Archer will be impacted by the pressure of trying to live up to the big contract. If anything, Cobb said, he thinks Archer will be more relaxed.
“I think this will relieve a lot of pressure that a lot of guys deal with up and down the league, 'When am I going to be set to take care of myself and my family for the rest of my life?' He doesn't have to think about that,” Cobb said. “And when you don't have to think about anything but pitching, I think that does wonders for somebody's outlook going into each game. ... I can't say how it feels to be financially secure, but I'm sure it's a pretty good feeling.”
When asked if he would like that peace of mind, Cobb said, “I think everybody would like to feel that way. Maybe it's in the cards in the future.”
When asked if was ever approached by the Rays about a long-term contract, Cobb said, “I plead the fifth.”
RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (right elbow) threw 28 pitches Tuesday in a simulated game at the Trop. He is expected to begin his minor-league rehab assignment Friday and is on pace to be ready to rejoin the team April 14, when he is scheduled to come off the DL.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow) played catch Thursday at 120 feet for the second straight day. He has progressed to throwing his change-up while playing catch.
Hellickson still targets June 1 as his return date.
Oomens having a blast
Randi Oomens, the Rays fan from Tucson, Ariz., who lost her eyesight in 2008 due to complications from multiple sclerosis and became a Rays fan after hearing 3B Evan Longoria's walk-up song on TV, enjoyed her first visit to the Trop this week.
Oomens, 36, and her guide dog Jayden attended the first three games of this series in a suite donated by the Rays. Her trip east was paid for by donations raised by her friends — all Rays fans she met on Twitter.
Oomens had a field pass before Wednesday's game and was excited to meet the players and Maddon.
“This is the best trip ever,” she said.
Tuesday's loss meant the Rays have won the first two games of a season only three times in team history — 2002, 2010 and 2012. ... Adam Lind's three-run homer Tuesday off Cobb was the first time he allowed a homer with at least two men on base during his career. ... Former Rays RHP Dan Wheeler will represent the team May 24 at the Baseball Hall of Fame during the annual Hall of Fame Classic game. ... At the request of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Maddon spoke with about 1,000 city employees Wednesday afternoon.