Posted on April 28, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
As if a now seven-game losing streak weren’t bad enough, things got worse for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday when they placed Chris Archer on the day-10 Injured List. The former all-star has been dealing with thumb inflammation that has impacted his performance over the past week. The Pirates will now give Archer some time off in hopes that the problem will subside so their would-be ace can get his season back on track.
Archer began the season in great form. Over his first three starts, he allowed just four runs over 18 innings, striking out 24 while holding opposing batters to a .177 average. However, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says that Archer had discomfort in his thumb during his start last week against the Giants and then again Friday when he faced the Dodgers. Over those two starts, Archer has allowed nine runs over nine innings while striking out just five.
“My slider was bad,” Archer said after giving up six runs in four innings to the Dodgers Friday night. “I kept trying to throw it, kept trying to force it, that’s really what happened tonight. If I have my slider working like it normally is working, then I’m able to [put batters away]. Tonight, I didn’t.”
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If there’s a silver lining for the Pirates, it’s that they have three off days between now and May 6. That will make it easy for the club to work with a four-man rotation over a short period of time. Of course, they can only hope that’s enough time for Archer’s thumb to properly heal.
“We felt that to give this ample enough time to heal, and the team’s upcoming off-days, that this was the best decision for [Archer], short- and long-term,” explained Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk. “When it started last start, he really never got any rest period. He continued to throw through it. So we’ll disengage him from throwing for a few days and build him up accordingly.”
Over the first month of the season, the Pirates have only needed to use five starters. Despite Archer’s struggles in his last two starts, Pittsburgh’s rotation has the lowest ERA in the National League. Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams, and Jordan Lyles all have an ERA under 2.60. If Archer can get back on track and Jameson Taillon can show more consistency, the Pirates will have a rotation that can help them survive their recent losing streak and stay competitive in the NL Central.
Of course, if Archer ends up missing a larger chunk of time, the Pirates would need to dip into their rotation depth. Top prospect Mitch Keller has gotten off to a good start at triple-A, but the club may not want to call him up just yet. Pittsburgh also doesn’t want to shake up its inconsistent bullpen in order to find an extra starter.
At the moment, there’s nothing to indicate that Archer will be on the IL any longer than 10 days. The Pirates appear optimistic that a little extra rest will help. Nevertheless, it’s concerning to see such a stark difference between Archer’s first three starts and his last two starts. If the Pirates are going to keep pace in the NL Central, they need the Archer from the first three starts back on the mound. In that sense, they can only hope this stint on the IL is a solution and not a sign of a permanent setback.