Archer expanding arsenal with 2-seamer, curve

August 14th, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Archer will take the mound at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon, a week after his last start at Coors Field. The extra rest gave him time to work through two bullpen sessions, one more intense than the other, as he continues an evolution that began before he was traded.

Toward the end of his time in Tampa Bay, Archer expanded his arsenal by reincorporating a two-seam fastball and adding a curveball. He brought that pitch mix to Pittsburgh along with a fastball that's averaged 94.6 mph this season, his wipeout slider and a changeup.

Archer threw a two-seam fastball earlier in his career but essentially scrapped it in the past three years. It's a pitch the Pirates are known for, though they've shown a staff-wide willingness to throw four-seamers up in the strike zone as well, and Archer believes it will make him a more complete pitcher.

"I felt like when I was at my absolute best, I had that. And I got away from it," Archer said on Tuesday. "I was getting more swing-and-miss, but there's times where you need contact, too. Just as my evolution, I figured why not use a full arsenal? I think I was limiting myself to a two-pitch pitcher for a while. I've already seen the benefits of using a two-seamer."

The curveball gives Archer another weapon to keep hitters off-balance, coming in with different movement and less velocity than his slider. So far this season, his pitch mix has been 45.8 percent fastballs, 43.1 percent sliders, 10.6 percent changeups and less than 1 percent curveballs, according to Statcast™.

"I'm using a full arsenal now instead of limiting myself to two, occasionally three," Archer said.

The time off has also provided Archer more time to work with pitching coach Ray Searage. Pirates pitchers often praise Searage for his enthusiasm and positivity -- it's as if he's their biggest fan, some say -- so it's no surprise to hear that Archer has also hit it off with Searage over the last two weeks.

"It's been great. I'm a big fan of his style of coaching. He brings a positive attitude every day, regardless of the outcome the night before," Archer said. "He tends to have a smile on his face, and the way he delivers messages, it's easy to digest. … As players, it's an everyday battle. This game is more mental than it is physical at this level. Him being the consistent positive energy and voice, it helps everybody."

Around the horn

• Catcher started Tuesday night behind the plate. He left Saturday's game in San Francisco during the fourth inning after taking a foul tip off his facemask but felt well enough to pinch-hit during Sunday's series finale and play on Tuesday.

The Pirates are still carrying three catchers on their roster, however: Cervelli, and . That will allow manager Clint Hurdle to use Cervelli or Diaz as a pinch-hitter, depending on who's starting, until they rebalance their roster.

• The Pirates optioned outfielder on Sunday to make room for Stallings, leaving as their only reserve outfielder behind Corey Dickerson, and . Hurdle said the Pirates feel they have enough outfield depth right now, as Josh Harrison could also play the corner spots if necessary.

• The Pirates on Monday transferred right-hander A.J. Schugel's rehab assignment from Class A Advanced Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis. Schugel has been sidelined all season, aside from 11 rehab appearances, due to right shoulder discomfort.