ST. PETERSBURG — Much of RHP Chris Archer’s success during his first two years at the big-league level rested with his ability to get out right-handed batters, holding them to a .173 average.
Much of Archer’s struggles this season are due to the success righties are now having against him. They take a .364 average into today’s start against Cleveland.
“It’s unbelievable, isn’t it?” manager Joe Maddon asked. “I think it’s because the slider isn’t in the right spot. He was exactly the opposite. We worked so hard in spring training to get him better against lefties. Mission accomplished. But while we’ve been doing that, we’ve kind of lost a little on the right side, but I know he has the ability to dominate the right side, and he will. I think a lot of it has to do with the execution and location of the pitch.”
Archer is holding lefties to a .220 average. He has, however, allowed 44 hits in 401⁄3 innings, though it was pointed out that 28 of those hits came in three games. But, Archer said it’s too early in the season to dwell on what right-handers and left-handers are hitting off him.
“Overall, I’ve been giving up too many hits,” he said. “I haven’t been executing my pitches. With my slider, it’s about doing less. I think there were six or seven times I either went from 0-2 or 1-2 to 3-2, and that’s just a matter of me doing too much. I’m getting ahead. I’m getting to two strikes, now I’m trying to be too nasty almost. It’s putting me in a tough situation, putting the team in a tough situation as far as pitch count goes.”
Archer said much of the problem stems from his mindset when he has a hitter on the ropes.
“With two strikes, I’m trying to be too fine or do too much,” he said. “So it’s just about keeping the consistent mindset and not saying, ‘OK, it’s 0-2, now it’s time for the nastiest, hardest, most-deathly slider I have.’ It’s more about, ‘I’m going to throw the same slider, the same fastball two inches lower, an inch higher,’ whatever the case may be.”
It’s a timeless game
The Rays have played a major league-high five games of 4-plus hours this season after Friday’s 4-hour, 10-minute marathon. That raised the average of their 10 games prior to Saturday’s outing against the Indians to 3:47.
“They’ve been really long, and that’s too much,” Maddon said. “I don’t like them that long, either.”
Of their first 36 games, 27 have gone longer than 3 hours, and 14 have lasted longer than 3:30.
“Hellickson’s not even pitching,” Maddon said, referring to injured RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who averaged 25.6 seconds between pitches last season.
RHP Joel Peralta takes 34.7 seconds between pitches. RHP Josh Lueke takes 30.5. RHP Brandon Gomes is at 29.2 seconds.
Of pitchers who qualify by number of innings, Archer leads the majors with 26.6 seconds between pitches. LHP David Price is second at 26.2.
“We do have some guys, they’re slow in the sense they take a lot of time in between pitches,” Maddon said.
Maddon said the fact the Rays pitchers throw a lot of pitches and the hitters work deep counts contributes to the length of games. So do the new replay challenges and the stalling by managers waiting for the call from the clubhouse to decide if they should use a challenge.
“That has to play into it,” Maddon said.
Cobb getting closer
RHP Alex Cobb played catch Saturday, one day after throwing a three-inning simulated game. He will pitch another simulated game Monday in Port Charlotte, going four innings or 60 pitches. If that goes well, he should make his first minor-league rehab start Saturday.
Meanwhile, Hellickson threw some curveballs on flat ground Saturday after his 40-pitch bullpen session and said his right elbow felt fine. He will throw another bullpen Tuesday.
3B Evan Longoria was the official starter for the Miles for Moffitt 1-mile fun run/walk Saturday morning at USF. The event attracted more than 7,500 runners/walkers and raised more than $500,000 for cancer research. ... SS Yunel Escobar returned to the lineup Saturday after leaving Friday’s game after two innings because of a bruised thumb.