Clayton's Archer hopes offseason work leads to major league job

csmith@newsobserver.comFebruary 20, 2013 

— Lift weights, breakfast, pilates, strength exercises, lunch and then a bullpen session; lather, rinse, repeat. Much like the mechanics of a major league pitcher, Chris Archer spent the most important offseason in his young career grinding in the gym in hopes of a spot on the Rays’ opening day roster.

With a six-player trade in the offseason that sent starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for Wil Myers, Archer’s shot at a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training is now better than ever.

“I feel ready,” Archer said after a recent workout before departing for Port Charlotte, Fla. “As the offseason has progressed, I’ve trained to improve a lot of things that are going to help me this season. You want to see improvement? You should have seen my first bullpen session.”

When fellow pitcher Jason Creasy from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization showed up to Clayton Fitness for the first time to work out with Archer, he was greeted with a token of motivation from the Tampa Bay starter and the 2012 Pitcher of the Year Award for the Rays organization.

“That whole thing was just something to say, ‘Get on my level,’” Archer joked. “Getting drafted for Creasy and me was easy, but that’s not the ultimate goal. Getting to the big leagues for him at the age of 20 may be unrealistic, but being the best pitcher in the Pirates’ system is attainable.”

The former Clayton High pitchers worked out with friends Drew Hardee and Ron Walker in preparation for the upcoming season – a routine that began each morning at 6.

While the men have been around Archer throughout much of his progression into a major league pitcher, they still marvel at the amount of work he put in this offseason.

“The craziest thing about it is just how curious he always is,” Walker said. “He can’t just do a workout, he has to know how it’s going to help him. That’s the best part of working with him – knowing that he pays attention to every part of his workout.”

Archer added to his program. He also worked out at Athletes’ Performance, saying the specialized training should set him apart when going through the grind of a 162-game season.

After going through a quick pilates session, Archer moved into a one-on-one workout with performance coach Will Parker – the same type of workout that Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, among others, went through when training for the 2012 NFL draft at Athletes’ Performance.

“I realized that I needed to step it up this year,” Archer said. “Because most people are just doing basic lifting and training and the goal is to be the best. That’s what I’m getting here. This is where you can separate yourself.”

He has done so honestly.

“You’ve been with me all day and see what I go through,” Archer told a reporter. “I don’t need a needle or a pill to get what I want out of my workouts. I have a great support system and roots that have helped me blossom into a pretty nice flower.”

Parker has worked with Archer for the past three seasons and said he has seen a huge improvement.

“Not only is he a very talented athlete, but also professional,” Parker said. “He was here every day early and did all of the extra stuff I asked him to do on his own. He had a huge jump last offseason, and we incorporated even more this year … so we should see him maintain his strength longer into the season.”

After a bullpen session where Archer wowed several N.C. State baseball players at Doak Field – and even caused stand-in Chance Shepard’s knees to buckle on a slider – he joked with N.C. State coach Elliott Avent and thanked him for allowing him to use the Wolfpack’s facilities.

Whether it was Athletes’ Performance, Clayton High or Clayton Fitness for his workouts or Venero’s Pizzeria and Juiced Up for his nutrition this offseason, Archer had a lot of people to thank for his status heading into spring training.

With spring training underway, Archer said he hopes his work will solidify something no workout can guarantee – a permanent spot in the Rays’ rotation.

“Mentally – I’m always there,” he said. “But this offseason has prepared me physically for what I want to do this season, which is help this team at the next level. My dream was always to make it to the big leagues … now I just want to make my family and support system proud.”

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