Chris Archer believes Rays could have best rotation in majors

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Chris Archer believes the Tampa Bay Rays are capable of having the best rotation in the major leagues.

"We have some very dynamic arms in this room," the two-time AL All-Star said after reporting to spring training, where a bevy of young starters and prospects are competing for roles on a staff that will have a different look after losing Alex Cobb to free agency.

"I say this every year, because we always have a special organization when it comes to arms, but I'm willing to put it up against everybody in the league," Archer added. "And in order for us to back it up, we have to produce. I think everybody in here is capable of doing that."

Archer, 29; Blake Snell, 25; Nathan Eovaldi, 28; Matt Andriese, 28; and Jake Faria, 24, are the leading candidates for the Rays' five-man starting rotation entering camp.

Jake Odorizzi was in the running for the Rays' starting rotation, but he was traded to the Minnesota Twins Saturday night.

Minnesota is sending minor league infielder Jermaine Palacios to Tampa Bay.

Adding to the intrigue is the presence of promising prospects Brent Honeywell, Yonny Chirinos, Jose DeLeon and Ryan Yarbrough -- long shots to make the Opening Day roster who nevertheless may get an opportunity to contribute this season.

Archer, 10-12 with a 4.07 ERA a year ago when he worked at least 200 innings for the third consecutive season, is excited about the possibilities.

"I know there are a lot of pitching staffs out there excited about what they have, but as far as our depth -- one through seven, eight, nine, even 10 guys -- we're going to have three or four guys in Triple-A who could be starting in the big leagues somewhere for somebody," Archer said.

"I'll put it up against anybody's," the right-hander added. "And at the end of the season, we can look at the numbers and see how we all fared."

With just five players 30 years or older -- catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Denard Span and relievers Sergio Romo, Chaz Roe and Dan Jennings -- on the 40-man roster, Tampa Bay has one of the youngest clubs in baseball.

The Rays enter 2018 with a streak of 560 consecutive games started by pitchers under 30, the longest such stretch in the majors.

Archer, an All-Star in 2015 and 2017, is eager to lead the way again.

"In order for us to be successful, we have to pitch at our top capabilities," he reiterated.

"We don't have to be anything more than what we are. But we have to produce, just like on the position-player side -- offense, defense, everybody has to be clicking," Archer added. "We talk about that every year, but pitching is our strong suit, and we need to take full advantage of it."