PORT CHARLOTTE, Florida: David Price opened up Chris Archer’s mind.
Which is why Archer believes Price will help bring greatness to the Red Sox and their pitching staff.
“He’s going to change the way those guys think over there — for the good,” said Archer before the Rays’ 13-5 exhibition victory over the Red Sox yesterday. “He’s a culture changer.”
Because every pitcher from the lowest rung of the minor leagues to the majors starts off with considerable physical gifts, the great separator between being good and great is the mental approach.
By example, Price’s greatness was evident to Archer on the mound every five games and in his work ethic in between starts.
By his words, Archer absorbed them like a sponge with Price as his next-door locker mate at the Rays’ Charlotte Sports Park. Deciding that a Cy Young Award winner’s wisdom was worth heeding was a smart move. Archer credits Price with helping him blossom into one of the finest young pitchers in the game today and a Cy Young candidate himself this season.
“From the mentality standpoint, you see what his mentality is and you see the results he gets and he preaches that’s how you should be every time out,” Archer said. “Your goal should be the absolute best every time out: nine-inning complete-game shutout. That’s your goal.”
Such an effort was never even a pipe dream for Archer as he came up through the minor leagues with strict pitch counts. Once he hit the major leagues four years ago, he still needed to see and hear Price talk about ultimate goals.
“Meeting David really opened my mind,” said Archer, adding that James Shields also played a formative role. “It wasn’t a direct, ‘Let’s sit down and talk about this.’ We were just cool — we’d have dinner together, we were locker mates. But really, it was him leading by example, that’s what he’s all about. I knew his mentality, and then he went out and demonstrated what having the right mindset does. I was all-in after I saw that.”
Leadership-wise, Archer also felt Price’s influence early this spring, when, in the presence of media, he reminded some younger pitchers that they needed to show up to camp earlier in the morning like he had been taught by Price and Shields. Archer said his only regret was that he spoke up when the media was around. Some further flak was created when a Tampa radio announcer chided Price for sticking his nose into the Rays’ business and telling Archer what to do.
Price took to Twitter to clarify that Archer was on his own.
“He said, ‘I heard you said something to some guys, and I’m happy see you’re stepping up and taking a leadership role,’?” said Archer. “I said, ‘Yeah, I could have been better about it, gone about it differently.’ and he said, ‘All right, you’ll know the next time.’?”
It’s that kind of steady and subtle sharing of wisdom from Price that Archer cherishes so dearly, and which he believes will eventually reveal itself to the Red Sox players and then Red Sox fans.
“People will just realize how great of a human being he is,” Archer said. “Everybody feels like they’re David’s best friend. From the parking lot attendant to the grounds crew members to the clubhouse staff to the players. Everybody feels close to him because he’s so genuine and such a good dude. No matter what level of stardom any of us get to, we know we can still remain a kind, humble human being.”
Evan Longoria broke into the majors with the Rays the same year as Price, in 2008. The two have remained friends since Price left in the middle of the 2014 season for Detroit. Price attended Longoria’s wedding over the winter and the Rays third baseman is grateful that Price, who spent the last half of last season with Toronto, is back in the AL East.
“Hopefully we don’t get to face him 19 times,” Longoria said. “We’ve remained friends, plus he’s been tremendously influential on me. He’s always good-natured and always brings a positive attitude to the field. It really rubs off on the rest of the team. I think that ties in to why he’s such a great teammate, too — he never comes to the field in a bad mood. When you have a guy like that in the clubhouse, it influences everybody. It has a tendency to seep through the pores of the rest of the guys and change the culture. That’s the biggest reason why we miss him here.”
Take it from those who know Price best.
Tampa Bay’s loss, as well as Detroit’s and Toronto’s, is the Red Sox’ gain.