PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday, Chris Archer had to worry about logistics. He had to pack. He had to move. He had to make sure his family was taken care of. After seven years with the Tampa Bay Rays, after three years of speculation, after an unexpected trade on Tuesday afternoon,
PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday, Chris Archer had to worry about logistics. He had to pack. He had to move. He had to make sure his family was taken care of. After seven years with the Tampa Bay Rays, after three years of speculation, after an unexpected trade on Tuesday afternoon, Archer had to get used to the idea of being a Pittsburgh Pirate.
It all became real when he arrived Wednesday at his new home ballpark, wearing Antonio Brown's No. 84 Steelers jersey he bought at the Pittsburgh airport. Then he put on his new jersey, the Pirates' No. 24 with his name on the back.
"As soon as I put the uniform on, it fit," Archer said. "Literally and figuratively."
Acquired by Pittsburgh in a blockbuster deal on Tuesday, Archer will make his Pirates debut in the team's series opener against the Cardinals at PNC Park on Friday night, when fellow Trade Deadline acquisition Keone Kela will also join the Bucs' roster. Archer will warm up to Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa's "Black And Yellow," endearing him to fans of an organization that's already made him feel welcome.
"Just the intensity he brings, the electric stuff that he has on the mound, he's fun to watch," said Sean Rodriguez, a former Rays teammate. "Just as a person, as a teammate, I'd bet pretty much everything I own on him being one of the best. Just having that around is going to be a blessing and a half."
Not long after the Pirates and Rays agreed to a deal, Archer got a phone call from Neal Huntington. Pittsburgh's general manager hoped Archer could start on Wednesday night at PNC Park, and Archer said he could hear in Huntington's voice "the passion and the joy, the excitement that was there to have me on board." Pirates chairman Bob Nutting then surprised Archer with a phone call, welcoming the right-hander to the organization.
Archer said he steered clear of social media and his regular MLB Network viewing before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. But when he logged onto Twitter on Tuesday, he saw tweets from his new teammates shooting invisible bows and arrows and offering up empty lockers for him. During Tuesday's game, Archer's family heard Huntington rave on the broadcast about Archer as a person, not just a pitcher. When he landed at the Pittsburgh airport on Wednesday, he said people instantly recognized him.
In short, he felt wanted.
"That was the biggest relief after all the trade rumors was these guys really want me," Archer said. "It just felt really good. I know one of the sayings for a long time here has been, 'We are family.' And I already feel like a part of the family."
Archer also displayed a strong grasp of the Pirates' recent history. In Tampa Bay, the 29-year-old starter wore jersey No. 22 -- which, of course, has not been worn here since Pittsburgh traded franchise icon Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco in January. Archer could have had it. Instead, he chose No. 24.
"I have a lot of respect for Andrew McCutchen. His jersey's not retired yet, but I think in the future it will be," Archer said. "He's done a lot of great things for this city on the field and off. He's what I aspire to be. I aspire to be that influential and that successful. … That is his number. If I talk to him this offseason, because we're friends, and he says he doesn't mind, I'll take it. But for at least this whole season, I don't think anybody should wear that number."
On Friday, he'll make his first Major League start for a club other than the Rays. He said he'll "try to keep everything as calm and normal as possible," but admitted it will be emotional. He hadn't even started visualizing that start against the Cardinals, though. On Wednesday, he was still trying to learn new names and get comfortable in black and gold.
"Having your name floated around is tough, but from hearing the way these guys talk about me and what they've told me, this is for now and for the future," Archer said. "The future looks very, very bright here. I'm excited to be a part of it, and I'm excited to be playing meaningful baseball again."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.