KANSAS CITY — Roughly one month ago, Chris Archer was in Arizona pitching to unsigned free agents and looking to rekindle the magic that once made him a prominent right-handed starter in the American League.
The Twins decided to take a chance on Archer, and so far that investment is paying dividends. Through two starts for Minnesota, Archer has shown encouraging signs that he may be able to help bring stability to a rotation that entered the season with some question marks.
Archer, who was sidelined for much of the 2021 season with tightness in his right forearm, threw 76 pitches on a wet night in Kansas City and left after 4 1/3 innings with a lead. Although the Twins wound up losing 4-3 to the Royals, the early returns on what Archer may be able to provide over the long term have pleased manager Rocco Baldelli.
“I was very happy with what he gave us,” Baldelli said after Archer allowed two runs on four hits. “We stretched him out a little bit more today. With the rain and the conditions, he battled through it. We were looking for a chance to win, and Arch gave us a chance to win.”
Utilizing a fastball in the mid-90s and a slider in the high-80s, Archer allowed one of the two solo homers hit by long-time Twins nemesis Salvador Perez. But Minnesota still led with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth when Joe Smith came in for Archer and quickly induced a double play ball off the bat of Bobby Witt Jr.
“When Joe Smith came in there, it was huge,” Archer said. “I was super pumped. The game could have gone a completely different direction and we relied on the vet to get the job done.”
While Archer’s evening was over with Minnesota leading 3-2, the Twins felt he could have had a bigger cushion. Minnesota challenged an out call at the plate in the third inning when Gary Sánchez tried to score from second on Ryan Jeffers’ single to center.
Sánchez was ruled out at the plate, but the Twins felt he had gotten ahead of the tag. The call was confirmed after a challenge, and the complexion of the inning was altered.
“I thought Sánchez was safe,” Baldelli said. “I thought it was a very close play and we know you have to have conclusive evidence to overturn these calls. On a lot of these plays, the call on the field is going to stand unless there’s an absolute picture that shows that he’s safe. It looked like he beat it, but it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
After Perez’s early homer, the Royals used another solo shot from him and a go-ahead blast by Hunter Dozier off Tyler Duffey to pull ahead in the sixth. But a frustrating result doesn’t take away optimism about what the Twins’ rotation might look like if Archer continues to build on his first two starts.
“I feel really good with where my body is,” Archer said. “It’s the highest pitch count I’ve had and it’s going well. Unfortunately, though, we didn’t win the game.”