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Archer aiming to help guide young Rays' development

MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- While trade rumors involving Chris Archer have swirled for the length of the offseason, the right-hander has remained in the background working to become better.

Archer has long been one of those players who explores ways to improve, whether it's eating right, reading something inspirational, or even paying a visit to the doctor to check for allergies (which lead to unnecessary inflammation). This offseason's addition to his improvement regimen came in the form of martial arts.

ST. PETERSBURG -- While trade rumors involving Chris Archer have swirled for the length of the offseason, the right-hander has remained in the background working to become better.

Archer has long been one of those players who explores ways to improve, whether it's eating right, reading something inspirational, or even paying a visit to the doctor to check for allergies (which lead to unnecessary inflammation). This offseason's addition to his improvement regimen came in the form of martial arts.

The right-hander has embraced Muay Thai, noting that he liked the discipline and conditioning elements of the full-contact martial-arts form.

"Learning how you defend and strike with all your limbs as opposed to only a kick or only a punch," Archer explained.

Archer's approach is a healthy one, and expected given his past. Besides, why worry about getting traded if he has no control over that possibility? However, at this juncture, he believes that he'll be with the Rays at the beginning of the 2018 season thanks to conversations he's had with team general manager Erik Neander.

Neander has "made me feel pretty good about being with the Rays in 2018," said Archer, after a recent workout at Tropicana Field.

Archer did hedge his comments by allowing that the market could change at any moment, prompting a trade. But for now, he's full steam ahead preparing to be the ace of the staff for what could be one of the youngest teams in the Major Leagues.

Archer went 10-12 with a 4.07 ERA and 249 strikeouts in 2017. He also surpassed the 200-inning mark for the third consecutive season, which is a blue-collar standard for any starting pitcher. That blue-collar work ethic, electric stuff and team-friendly contract all combine to make him desirable to other teams. But the Rays will not give their ace away, so speculation about him being traded should remain constant even after the season begins.

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Archer knows how talented many of the young players wearing Rays uniforms in this year's camp will be. He's excited about the group after seeing some of them perform during past Spring Trainings, and hearing reports about them from others in the organization. While he's excited about the youngsters, he doesn't want to go through a fifth straight losing season. Thus, as a leader on this year's team, he believes it will be up to him and other veterans on the team to help expedite the transition to the Major Leagues for the youngsters.

"There is a group of promising young talent that is going to help the team," Archer said. "...I'm looking forward to being part of their development and growth. ... I want to help these guys shorten their learning curve and help them be a better version of themselves as soon as possible."

Archer sounded positive amid the uncertain individual and team climates. In short, he's ready to go. And note to opposing hitters: Think twice about charging the mound this season.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer