Chris Archer optimistic about hip tightness, ‘already feeling ... better’

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ST. PETERSBURG — This wasn’t the comeback attempt the Rays’ Chris Archer had in mind.

Archer, who hadn’t pitched for the team since leaving an April 10 game with right-forearm tightness, lasted just two innings (41 pitches) in Sunday’s 9-0 victory against the White Sox.

The right-hander had left-hip tightness — the same injury that impeded his rehabilitation — but seemed optimistic that he could return without missing much time. Manager Kevin Cash said Archer would be examined Monday.

“I noticed a little drop in my fastball (velocity), and I felt the tightness in my hip,’’ Archer said. “With where we’re at as a team, I can’t be out there and not give close to my best self. I thought it was smart to take a little breather, leave it at two innings. With these upcoming off-days (this week), it should help space things out to where I can be all right toward day six or seven.’’

Archer, who struck out four of his first five batters and allowed one hit in throwing 41 pitches (24 strikes), said he doesn’t believe there’s anything structurally wrong.

“I’ve had to learn this the hard way recently, but your body talks to you, you have to listen,’’ Archer said. “Especially when we have such a good team. I never want to put the team behind the eight ball because of a physical ailment. So I’m just trying to be smart and think about the team.’’

Archer said his hip injury, suffered while rehabilitating at Triple-A Durham was “way more intense … and it took a while to go away. I’m already feeling a little bit better, so I’m encouraged by that.’’

Archer said he felt his hip tighten up during warmups and at the end of the first inning. He said he thought it might loosen up. But even though he was still executing pitches, he didn’t want to take any chances.

“The energy in the stadium was awesome,’’ Archer said. “The energy in the dugout was awesome. You could tell that guys knew it meant a lot to me, the staff and everybody. So yeah, it’s a bummer.’’

Cruz on COVID list; Choi leaves early

Besides Archer’s early departure, the biggest news surrounded the unavailability of DH Nelson Cruz (placed on the COVID-19-related injured list) and the injury to first baseman Ji-Man Choi (left-hamstring tightness).

Cruz, 41, was originally in the starting lineup but woke up with an illness. There’s no set timetable for his return, so he potentially could be back for Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia.

“We opted to keep him away,’’ Cash said. “Certainly we’ll test and all that, but we won’t get those results back (immediately).’’

Choi, hampered with a hamstring injury earlier this season, took himself out of the game after doubling and scoring in the first inning. He was replaced by Yandy Diaz, who went 2-for-3.

“(Choi) said he felt it when he hit the double, getting to second base, he felt it grab him,’' Cash said. “And then it probably just continued to tighten up while he came around to score. He was pretty quick to say, ‘That’s it.’ He felt like it would roll up on him if he stayed out there.’’

Franco does it again

Shortstop Wander Franco reached base for the 24th consecutive game, tying the franchise record for a rookie (Rocco Baldelli, 2003). It’s the club’s longest single-season streak since C.J. Cron (25) in 2018. It’s also the longest in the majors by a player 20 years old (or younger) since 1990 (Ken Griffey Jr., 25).

“You guys all know that’s a legendary name (Griffey) and everybody wants to be like him,’’ Franco said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I continue to do the same routine I do every day. As long as I try to make contact with the good pitches instead of chasing pitches, I think I will come out with good results.’’

On the shuttle

Right-hander Chris Mazza was called up for the ninth time this season. So being sent to Triple-A Durham on Saturday, then being summoned by the major-league team Sunday was nothing new. But being on a fishing boat in the morning in Fort Myers when getting the call from manager Kevin Cash … and hustling north to Tropicana Field to arrive in the second inning … and getting in the game at a crucial moment?

Yeah, that was new.

“With all the ups and downs I’ve experienced in my career, it’s always stay ready,’’ said Mazza, who entered with a runner on in the fifth and pitched 1⅓ shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out two. “I think this kind of just helped because I didn’t have time to focus on what was going on or even what the situation was. It was just go out there and get an out.’’

It’s safe to say Mazza, who replaced Cruz on the 26-man roster, has his phone by his side.

“Always, always, always,’’ he said. “You never know when you’re going to get that phone call. You want to be ready. You never want to miss it.

“Being around the game as long as I have, you realize how it works. You try not to get frustrated, even though it’s frustrating at times. You’ve got to be able to control what you can control. This is something you can’t control. Whatever happens, happens. Whenever your number is called, be ready.’’

Miscellany

To make room for Archer, the team designated right-hander David Hess for assignment. ... Lefty Josh Fleming was the 11th Ray to record a save this season, which leads the majors and is one off the all-time record (2020 Rays, 1973 Rangers). … Austin Meadows has 88 RBIs (one off his career high in 2019) and is batting .318 (35-for-110) with runners in scoring position. … The Rays improved to 41-23 at the Trop and are 34-11 since May 13 (outscoring opponents 263-138 during that stretch). … The team is batting a majors-leading .410 with the bases loaded.

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