Archer thrilled to get fresh start with Pirates
PITTSBURGH — Before he ever wore a Pirates jersey, Chris Archer was wearing a different brand of black and gold.
He walked into PNC Park Wednesday afternoon sporting an Antonio Brown replica Steelers jersey, No. 84.
“I’m stoked,” Archer said about joining the Pirates in the deadline trade from Tampa Bay. “As soon as I put on the uniform, it fit, figuratively and literally.”
Archer will make his Pirates debut Friday, starting the first game of the series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The team had hoped he would have been available to face the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night, but Archer was too deep in the logistics of moving.
He was introduced to the crowd in the middle of the first inning and got an enthusiastic reaction that was somewhat muted by the Pirates falling behind 4-0.
Archer’s name was prominent in rumors at the trade deadline as the rebuilding Rays looked to turn veterans into prospects.
Archer said he unplugged, avoiding social media and MLB Network and didn’t know he was headed for Pittsburgh until he got the official word.
“I didn’t know how interested Pittsburgh was in me until I heard the excitement (in general manager Neal Huntington’s) voice,” Archer said. “Not too long after, I got a call from ownership. You don’t get too many calls from ownership.
“It meant a lot for everybody to take time out of their day to welcome me and show how much they wanted me.”
Archer said he got enthusiastic reaction from Twitter and when he walked through the airport after his arrival in Pittsburgh.
“People are very excited,” he said. “It’s energizing.”
Archer said that former Tampa Bay teammates Corey Dickerson and Sean Rodriguez told him he will enjoy being with the Pirates.
“They told me this place is special,” he said.
Huntington first became aware of Archer when he was a young prospect in the Cleveland organization and Huntington worked in the Indians’ minor league department.
His scouting report on Archer: “Ultra competitive. Driven.”
Huntington said that Archer’s statistics have shown decline over the past two seasons, but he argues the numbers are better below the surface.
“He’s 11th in MLB in innings pitched,” Huntington said. “He’s fifth in strikeouts.”
He cited an advanced analytic that ranks Archer as the 10th or 11th best pitcher in the major leagues over the past two years.
“And those are his down years,” Huntington said. “That’s where we believe he’s still a top of the rotation starter and a great add.”
By the way, Archer comes by Steelers fandom naturally. He said his mother is an old school Steelers fan, even though the family lived in North Carolina.
“I don’t know exactly why,” he said.
Reliever Keone Kela won’t report until Friday.
“I talked to him the night of the trade and he was fired up and ready to go,” Huntington said. “About 3:30 in the morning, I got a call from his agent walking through all the things players have to do when they leave a city.”
Huntington said Kela returned to Texas from a road trip in Arizona to pack up his residence and move to Pittsburgh.
Under the labor agreement, players have 72 hours to report to a new team.
Dickerson is on track to come off the disabled list on Saturday. He’s been on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
Jung Ho Kang will not begin a rehab assignment. He is still bothered by a wrist injury.
Chad Kuhl was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot for Archer.