Is Archer the pitcher that Hickey can’t figure out?

by Gary Shelton on June 2, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Archer has lost seven of 10 decisions this year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Archer has lost seven of 10 decisions this year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Thursday, 6 a.m.

He harnessed Matt Garza's hot head. There for a while, Garza was likely to blow his cool on the mound, and there for a while, his career threatened to go, too.

He managed James Shields' stubbornness. Shields was a battler, but there were times that his competitiveness could blind him to his shortcomings.

He controlled David Price's silliness. Price always had the great arm, but there were times — back before he arrived -- that his immaturity got the better of him.

In each case, and in others, pitching coach Jim Hickey was there to suggest his

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Archer lost for the seventh time in 10 decisions./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Archer lost for the seventh time in 10 decisions./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

standards, to reinforce his expectations. In each case, he squeezed the talent from the arms like squeezing water from a rag.

And now comes this question:

In Chris Archer, has Hickey come up with the untrainable pitcher?

Archer lost again Wednesday night. He gave up four runs in the first two innings, and before long, the Rays were on their way to their 10th defeat in 12 games. Once again, Archer had failed to stop the slide. Once again, Archer had failed to deliver on his considerable promise.

In a season of disappointments, this is the biggest. Archer, last year's all-star, has climbed uphill all season long. He is 3-7 now, with a 4.75 era. In 11 starts, roughly one-third of a season, he has given up 12 home runs. He gave up 19 a year ago.

And everywhere you turn, you hear the questions:

“What is wrong with Archer?”

And, “what can the Rays do about it?”

So far, Archer has a tragic disparity between ability and output. He needs to be in command earlier. To Hickey, he must seem to be a Rubik's Cube with a thousand squares. He is a crossword puzzle in Swahili.

Wednesday night, Archer stood by his locker and calmly talked about his performance. Yes, he had good stuff. He talked about bad bounces. He said that a lack of execution wasn't his fault. To be honest, his interview was as unsatisfactory as the rest of his performance.

Look, I like Archer a lot. I like the way he looks at a lot of things in life. But there are times you'd like to see a little more fire from him. I'd like him to slam something into something. For a pitcher, there are a lot of better ways to judge performance other than record. But with Archer's stuff, being 3-7 is wrong.

Has there ever been a clearer example of a team that needed its stopper to come through? The Rays had lost nine of 11, and they were on the verge of being swept by the Royals. That's the time that a pitcher needs to stand up.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey has guided other talented pitchers to success.

Pitching coach Jim Hickey has guided other talented pitchers to success.

The thing is, Archer's lifetime record is four games under .500. Maybe it's time to stop judging him by how bad he can make two hitters look an inning. Because the other hitter is wearing him out.

We've got to play with passion. We've got to play with heart. We've got to use gut instinct," starter Chris Archer said. "I know that we've been pretty successful. But something has to change. And maybe playing this team right now and seeing how they play baseball will rub off on us and get us going in the right direction."

Everyone will agree with that. But who is going to lead the charge?

That's right.

Archer.

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