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Rays name Archer their Opening Day starter

Right-hander gets nod for 4th straight season
MLB.com @wwchastain

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Chris Archer will be the Rays' Opening Day starter, which should come as little surprise to Rays fans.

Rays fans have been trained to associate Opening Day with Archer being on the mound. The 29-year-old right-hander will be making his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, setting a new standard for the Rays.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Chris Archer will be the Rays' Opening Day starter, which should come as little surprise to Rays fans.

Rays fans have been trained to associate Opening Day with Archer being on the mound. The 29-year-old right-hander will be making his fourth consecutive Opening Day start, setting a new standard for the Rays.

View Full Game Coverage

"Never gets old," Archer said. "To do it four consecutive years, it's always a goal of mine. And it's such a pitching-rich organization, it's an honor every single year to represent the Tampa Bay Rays in the first game of the season."

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When Archer takes the Tropicana Field mound on March 29 to face the Red Sox, he'll break a tie with James Shields, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts from 2008-2010.

"It means a lot," Archer said. "We've had some really good pitchers. I'm happy to be healthy and to produce enough that the organization selects me to start the first game."

Rays manager Kevin Cash announced his decision to start Archer in the first game, and he congratulated the right-hander.

Four Opening Day starts in a row "is saying something about the body of work he's put together throughout his early career here and how much we value him and count on him to go lead us for the last four Opening Days," Cash said.

Video: TB@PHI: Archer retires Franco on strikeout to end 1st

Archer's brilliance with the Rays has been tempered by the numbers. Yes, he's got electric stuff, he works harder than most, and he's a blue-collar guy, notching 200-plus innings the last three seasons. But he's found himself on the losing side of the ledger more often than not.

Archer has not had a winning season since he went 10-9 in 2014, and he's 51-63 in 162 Major League appearances (160 starts). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Archer became the first pitcher in Major League history with three consecutive losing seasons despite recording at least 200 strikeouts each year.

Archer was asked about what he needs to do to reach another level this season.

"Just continue to stay on the same track that I've been on," Archer said. "Hopefully win more games. But a lot of that's out of my control. I'm going to compete and do everything that I can. Give the team everything I have and hopefully stay healthy for a full season and at the end of the season, hopefully lead our team to big things."

Archer believes the pitching has to lead the way if the Rays are going to be competitive in 2018.

"In order for us to be successful, we have to pitch at our top capabilities," Archer said. "We don't have to be anything more than what we are. But we have to produce. Just like on the position-player side. Offense, defense. Everybody has to be clicking. We talk about that every year. But the pitching is our strong suit, and we need to make, and take, full advantage of it."

Archer knows he must be a leader for this year's team, which is not a new role for him.

"I enjoy it," Archer said. "... I've been doing that for a while now. And it started before me. David Price was doing it. ... I've already been in this role ... That's why I don't feel like I need to do anything different. Just be me and help encourage these guys to be the best version of themselves."

Cash said the rest of the Rays' rotation will be Blake Snell, a bullpen day, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Faria

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

Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer