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Archer dominant as he ups pitch count

Staff ace worked his longest outing of Spring Training
MLB.com @wwchastain

CLEARWATER -- Chris Archer made his fourth start of the spring Tuesday in a 6-3 Phillies win over the Rays, and the right-hander looked dazzling in his 4 1/3 innings of work.

Archer allowed two runs on one hit and three walks, while striking out five. Most important, he stretched himself out farther, throwing 81 pitches, of which 47 were strikes.

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CLEARWATER -- Chris Archer made his fourth start of the spring Tuesday in a 6-3 Phillies win over the Rays, and the right-hander looked dazzling in his 4 1/3 innings of work.

Archer allowed two runs on one hit and three walks, while striking out five. Most important, he stretched himself out farther, throwing 81 pitches, of which 47 were strikes.

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Archer, who will likely be the Rays' Opening Day starter, liked his performance for the most part, save for an 0-2 walk to Roman Quinn to start the third.

"The 0-2 walk to the leadoff batter with speed, [that's] definitely not something I'm happy about," Archer said. "But that's nitpicking. That's what Spring Training is for. Definitely going to make sure that doesn't happen during the season."

Maikel Franco got the Phillies' only hit against Archer, which came on a 3-0 fastball to lead off the fourth.

"A 3-0 fastball," Archer said. "If people are ready to swing, there can be damage done. And he just jumped all over a cookie."

Archer told reporters his changeup was "good today" and "actually better than my slider," which he surmised was "very encouraging."

"Today, [the changeup] actually felt like a better pitch -- swing and miss -- in the strike zone than my slider," Archer said.

Looking ahead, Archer said he would like to be "a little more efficient", adding: "That's going to come."

Position battles
According to Rays manager Kevin Cash, Jason Coats and Brandon Snyder could be in competition with each other for a spot on the 25-man roster.

"I think that's fair to say," Cash said. "We've talked about the right-handed spot against left-handed pitching. Kind of complement our overall roster. Those two guys are up in the running."

Cash threw in Micah Johnson's name as part of the competition even though he's left-handed, noting that Johnson has "done a tremendous job also."

Coats, 28, made his Major League debut with the White Sox in 2016, appearing in 28 games. He was claimed off waivers by the Rays in January 2017, but was subsequently released and re-signed to a Minor League contract. He missed the entire 2017 season following Tommy John surgery.

Snyder, 31, has appeared in the Majors in parts of five seasons with the Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox, and Braves. He is a career .242/.279/.459 hitter with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 120 games. He spent all of last season with Triple-A Syracuse in the Washington Nationals organization, batting .263/.356/.490 with a career-high 23 home runs.

Coats went "a year without playing, that's a challenge within itself," Cash said. "And Brandon Snyder, we're going to see him get in the outfield a little more. We're going to get a good look at him in the outfield. I know he's going to catch again, but we want to see how his defense plays out there a little more consistently."

Coats started at DH for the Rays on Tuesday and went 0-for-3. Snyder started in right field and went 0-for-3.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"They've both done good things," said Cash about Coats and Snyder. "They've gotten their at-bats. Neither of them has caught fire yet in Spring Training, which doesn't really matter. But we're doing everything we can to get really good looks from both of them."

Injury update
Andrew Velazquez pinch-hit for Coats in the eighth and took a glancing blow off his helmet from an Aaron Brown pitch. Velazquez appeared fine afterward, but Cash still elected to remove him from the game as a precaution. He will continue to be evaluated.

Video: TB@PHI: Velazquez leaves game after hit by pitch

After the game Velazquez said he felt fine.

"All good," Velazquez said. "Stung my ear a little bit."

The big dance
Kevin Kiermaier loves college basketball, so the Rays center fielder had the most to say when asked about the bracket he filled out for this year's tournament.

Kiermaier is a huge Purdue fan. Despite that allegiance, he wouldn't forecast the Boilermakers to go all the way. Instead, he noted they were an "Elite Eight" team that needs to play better defense.

He noted that most of the upsets he forecast were No. 7 and No. 10 seeds, and even though he liked No. 13 seed Marshall, he couldn't pick them to beat No. 4 seed Wichita State.

In Kiermaier's eyes, Villanova is the "most complete team" in the tournament, and he loves Virginia's defense, which set the table for his forecasted final between the two teams. And the national champion according to Kiermaier?

"Villanova," he said.

Worth noting
Blake Snell threw well on Monday while pitching in an intrasquad game at Charlotte Sports Park. The left-hander allowed a run on two hits, and a walk while striking out eight in 4 1/3 innings.

"I saw Blake pitch [Monday], he continues to look really good," Cash said. "...It's tough to get pumped up in those situations, but he definitely did. He looked very crisp. Everybody commented, just how the ball was coming out. How motivated he was when he stepped on the mound. It's not ideal to have a sim game, a stay-back day, but if you're going to make the most out of it, sometimes it works out OK."

• Cash noted that Kiermaier won't be in center field every day, and will still "get some DH days" during the games leading up to the start of the season.

• Jose De Leon had successful Tommy John surgery on Monday, performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

Josh Lowe, the Rays' No. 1 pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, reached on an error in the eighth, and then proceeded to steal second and third in his first Major League game of the spring.

Up next
The Rays travel to Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon to play the Pirates in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Yonny Chirinos will start for the Rays. Also expected to see action are Vidal Nuno, Alex Colome, Ryne Stanek, Cody Hall, Colton Murray, Adam Kolarek, and Kyle Bird. Watch the game on MLB.TV.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays