Archer 'can't wait to experience' home opener

Pirates starter will take the mound in April 1 opener at PNC Park

February 17th, 2019

BRADENTON, Fla. -- learned last season what it's like to pitch in front of a passionate Pittsburgh crowd. When he made his Pirates debut on Aug. 3 at PNC Park, fans roared for every two-strike pitch and erupted when he got out of jams.

"Probably for the first time in my career, I realized home-field advantage is a real thing," Archer said. "Having those fans in your corner, I've never experienced it on that level. I loved it, and I want to be a part of it for a long time.":: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

He will be a part of it again on April 1, when he is scheduled to start the Pirates' home opener against the Cardinals. When manager Clint Hurdle announced Pittsburgh's opening series rotation on Saturday, he also gave Archer the nod for the season's first game at PNC Park.

"It's going to be a lot of fun. The energy in the city around that time of the year, it's always buzzing," Archer said. "I've never been a part of it. I've only heard. And I can't wait to experience it."

Archer has spoken highly of Pittsburgh fans since he arrived in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal with the Rays. The announced attendance at his Pirates debut -- also against the Cardinals -- was only 26,773, but the energy inside the ballpark stuck with him.

On Sunday, Archer said he was surprised by how quickly fans welcomed him. He got a different perspective of Pittsburgh fandom, too, by attending two Steelers games at Heinz Field last season.

"When people are passionate about me, it makes it easier to be passionate about them and the city and care about the betterment of the city and care about supporting the other sports teams," he said.

Archer follows the news and transactions throughout the offseason, particularly within his team's division. So he is well aware that the Cardinals, his first opponent, added perennial NL MVP candidate to a lineup that had already featured . Archer said he will start his preparation a week to 10 days before the game, looking at St. Louis' projected lineup and how the Cardinals' hitters performed this spring.

Pitching a prominent game to begin the season is nothing new for Archer. He was the Rays' Opening Day starter each of the past four years, which should make it a little easier to handle his first assignment of this season.

"It was always an honor. I don't look at this any differently," he said. "Just opening it up in front of the city is going to be a lot of fun, something I'm really looking forward to."

As for the Pirates' Opening Day starter? Archer had high praise for , comparing him to former teammate , the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

"It's well deserved," Archer said of Taillon's Opening Day nod. "He's still just scratching the surface. Honestly, it's a lot like when I was with Blake Snell last year. There's going to be even more greatness in him this year. I can see it."

Around the horn

• All 62 players on the Pirates' roster for Major League Spring Training were in camp by Sunday's full-squad report date. Most of the position players were already working out at Pirate City. , and Will Craig arrived on Sunday to round out the group.

Position players had their physical exams on Sunday. Pittsburgh's first full-squad workout will take place on Monday morning.

• Live batting practice was the highlight of Sunday's workout for pitchers and catchers. A large group of Pirates pitchers threw to a handful of Minor Leaguers already in camp, giving them an early feel for throwing off the mound with someone in the batter's box.

On Field 1, Taillon and right-hander pitched to infield prospect Ji-Hwan Bae. Meanwhile, on Field 3, prospect Oneil Cruz got in the box against closer and top prospect Mitch Keller.

• The Pirates had a guest in camp on Sunday morning: legendary college basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale, who resides in nearby Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Vitale spoke with catcher , the son of former University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, and chatted with guest instructor Rennie Stennett during early batting practice.