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Archer's season debut has added twist

CLEVELAND -- There stood Chris Archer, a nervous, awestruck 17-year-old with his dad, watching batting practice at Progressive Field.

The right-handed pitcher had just signed his first baseball contract, agreeing to devote his career to the Cleveland Indians' organization after the franchise selected him in the fifth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

After he inked his name to the pact, he and his father occupied front row seats for the Indians' contest that day.

On Friday, Archer returned to the ballpark for the first time since that summer day in 2006. On Saturday, he'll square off against the team that drafted him for the first time, as he makes his season debut atop the hill for the Rays.

"This does add a little extra," Archer said about facing Cleveland, "but it's not super over-the-top or anything. I know there are some coaches in the Indians organization who always want to see me succeed and do well, so to come up here and play in front of them is going to be pretty cool."

In his first go-around in the Majors last season, Archer went 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA in six appearances, including four starts. When manager Joe Maddon informed Archer, the Rays' fourth-ranked prospect, he wouldn't be making the big league club out of Spring Training, the skipper told the youngster to improve his fastball command.

Archer obliged, noting that it has been the facet of his game he has conditioned the most while pitching at Triple-A Durham, where he has gone 5-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 10 starts.

"It really comes down to throwing your fastball for a strike," Maddon said. "He has a really good breaking ball, slider, a really good changeup. … Physically, he can compete here. Mentally, he can compete here. His pitch ability needs to increase a little bit."

Zack Meisel is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel.
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