PHOENIX — Chris Archer took the mound Wednesday night at Chase Field intent on pitching the Rays to victory against the Diamondbacks, intent on keeping his team within arm's distance of the first-place Red Sox and, in a small way, intent on proving he was good enough to make his middle school baseball team.
Archer was cut from the squad when he was 12, and that wound is still somewhat open a dozen years later.
“Whenever you're 12 years old and you have a dream and somebody tells you you can't accomplish it, it can tear you down,” he said. “And there's been tears shed, but this is kind of deep, but every element possesses positive and negative forces that makes the element what it is, and those negative forces made me who I am equally as much as the positive ones did.”
Archer reached back for that memory Tuesday afternoon when asked what it means to have been named the American League pitcher and rookie of the month for July.
“It took a toll on me, but I was 12, so I learned lessons when I was 12 that I can apply 12 years later,” he said.
Wednesday night was a short one for Archer, however. He was pulled in the second inning because of right forearm tightness.
Archer was 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA in five starts last month. He became the third pitcher since the rookie of the month honor was added in 2001 to win the monthly pitcher and rookie award. The last was teammate Jeremy Hellickson, in May 2011.
“I think it speaks to all the people who have been in my corner and to all the people who doubted me, who fueled me with doubt,” Archer said.
Those in his corner, his family and friends, he said, sat back with a satisfied grin, knowing Archer had it in him to become one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.
Those who doubted him?
“I think they take a step back and think, 'Maybe we shouldn't be so blunt with a little kid. Maybe we should be more encouraging,' ” Archer said.
Archer said he's beginning to hear more and more from teammates from rookie ball and those who were in and out of his life years ago. Last season, he said he received a phone call from the middle school baseball coach, the one who doubted him.
Archer said it would take more time than he had Tuesday to explain how that conversation went. Archer did say he played quarterback for that same coach on the football team.
Archer made the team the following year, but pitched one inning. It wasn't until he was 15 that his coaches looked at him as a pitcher.
“So it's constantly self-motivation, people that are my support group motivating me, and also the negative force motivating me as well,” he said. “It helps me to this day. I'm not mad about it, I'm actually happy it happened. Just another humbling experience that I'm glad I went through.”