Chris Archer’s redemption arc comes full circle with the Twins

Minnesota Twins, MLB, Tampa Bay Rays

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After suffering multiple serious injuries in the last two years, Chris Archer has made a good comeback with the Minnesota Twins.

A decade ago, the Tampa Bay Rays were just in their first wind of showing the baseball world that they could be contenders despite having one of, if not the smallest payrolls in all of Major League Baseball. They did it by diving deep into analytics, drafting and developing a lot of talent, and then trading that talent to another team to regenerate their farm system.

A prime example of that is Chris Archer.

Archer was not drafted by the Rays but they traded for him as a minor leaguer in 2011. He was acquired from the Chicago Cubs with four other players in exchange for starting pitcher Matt Garza (and two other players) in a five-for-three swap.

He made his MLB debut late in 2012 and in 2013, he came in third in AL Rookie of the Year voting after he posted a 3.22 ERA in 23 games.

The Rays, as a team, took a bit of a downturn as they didn’t make the postseason for five straight seasons. But, undoubtedly, their ace was Archer.

In fact, in 2015, he made an MLB-leading 34 starts with a 3.23 ERA. Despite being on a losing team (80-82) and having a losing record (12-13) due to a lack of run support, Archer was an All-Star and came in fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting. He was also an All-Star in 2017.

In the middle of 2018, he was traded to Pittsburgh in a deal that worked out well for Tampa Bay. They acquired Tyler Glasnow, Shane Baz, and Austin Meadows in a four-player deal.

In 2019, Archer did not see much success as his ERA went up to 5.19 and his home run rate more was more than double what it was in 2015.

He then started having some shoulder issues. It was determined that he had neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. That happens when nerves between the shoulder and neck (the thoracic area of the body) have become constricted and blood flow to the shoulder and arm is not as good as it should be. Common symptoms include numbness in the arm and fingers.

Surgery for it usually removes the first rib bone and scalene muscles (neck muscles) to make more space for nerves in the thoracic outlet.

Recovery time can take anywhere from three months to over a year. For Archer, he had the surgery in June and he was pitching in Spring Training in March. But he was no longer with the Pirates but, instead, he re-signed with Tampa Bay.

He suffered two more injuries, though. In just his second start of the regular season, he suffered a forearm injury. Forearm tightness sometimes leads to Tommy John surgery (which calls for a recovery time of 12-18 months). His was comparatively minor, meaning that he was able to return in August. But after four starts, he suffered a hip injury in mid-September.

Archer hit free agency after the 2021 season and, with the lockout, he did not sign until late March, or in the middle of spring training.

He signed with the Minnesota Twins, a team that was at the top of his list of potential teams to sign with and it has paid off for him.

Chris Archer has made a successful comeback with the Minnesota Twins

Entering the month of July, Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Chris Archer has made a successful comeback. While the club has been vigilant with his pitches and innings (only pitching more than 80 pitches in a start once), he has seen good results with them.

In 15 starts, Archer has a 3.08 ERA, which is the lowest in his career. He is also only allowing 6.9 hits per nine innings, which is also the lowest in his career.

In a recent exclusive conversation with FanSided, Archer told us how he decided that Minnesota was the best place to make a comeback.

“I knew a couple of people on the staff,” Archer said. They included manager Rocco Baldelli (who was on Tampa Bay’s coaching staff when Archer was in the majors with them from 2012 through 2018) and pitching analyst Josh Kalk (who also was previously with Tampa Bay while Archer was there as well). “I knew I was in good hands from that standpoint.”

Then he reached out to some players that he knew that played for Minnesota.

“I reached out to some guys who used to play here and they had nothing but glowing things to say about the organization,” Archer said. “And then I looked (at Minnesota’s roster). They’ve got good catchers, they have a good defense, they’ve got a real good chance at winning the division — this was after they signed (Carlos) Correa — so (for) trying to get the best out of myself and trying to contend, this was a topic target for me in free agency.”

Entering play on Sunday, the Twins are leading the American League Central with a 45-36 record and with a three game lead on the second-place Cleveland Guardians. The Twins are on pace for a 90-72 season after they went 73-89 last season.

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