Commentary | Tampa Bay Rays pitchers credit chemistry for team's success

Young pitchers praise Rays way at Ranch event

adell@bradenton.comFebruary 23, 2013 

— You can't win football games without team chemistry, unless your quarterback has nine lives and even then his demise is inevitable.

It's hard to succeed on the basketball court without it unless you can clone a Michael or a Kobe, but there are no guarantees.

It's understandable.

But what might be foreign to many is why chemistry is so important to a pitching staff.

You are alone out there on the mound facing million-dollar hitters who want to send you back to the long bus rides and one horse towns of the minor leagues.

No one is allowed to help you throw the ball unless they can sneak some of that funny stuff on your cap. But didn't Phil Niekro and friends retire a long time ago?

The Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff feeds off chemistry, which is why it's one of the best in baseball.

Three of the club's promising young arms vouched for the importance of chemistry at a luncheon Friday before the Manatee and Greater Sarasota chambers of commerce.

Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Brandon Gomes have their own special stories that enabled them to get to the big leagues. They possess an aura of confidence that comes in part from looking into those wide-rimmed Joe Maddon glasses.

The Rays manager can make pitchers feel invincible, and sometimes that's all you need.

Maddon's passion is contagious. David Price caught his fever.

Cobb and Archer lauded the Rays' Cy Young Award winner, who went out of his way to make things easier for them. Gomes thanked Joel Peralta, the old man in Maddon's furniture store of arms that he keeps stored in his bullpen.

Archer, who has been with three organizations and has strong support from his parents and former high school coach, is especially appreciative of Price. When he was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Rays for Matt Garza, Price was the first one to contact him.

"Two days after I got traded, DP called and said 'I want your locker next to mine. If you need anything or have any questions let me know. I going to take you under my wing,'" Archer said. "For him to reach out like that for someone in Double-A was awesome; it was completely uplifting."

Cobb also credited Price with helping him get through a tough time when he was dealing with issues following his surgery in August 2011 that resulted in a rib removal.

"David is awesome. He takes care of everyone. He will talk to you about whatever you want," Cobb said. "He just makes things easier. If you have an issue with someone he will help. I had a problem with a trainer last year, and he was on my side."

Not too long in the future, when DP will probably be gone because the Rays' bank account doesn't have enough money to keep him in town, Cobb and Archer should be ready to become Maddon's new ambassadors.

Maddon has named Cobb the fourth man in his starting rotation. Archer might start the season in the minors, but he doesn't figure to be down there very long.

The 24-year-old Archer has a lot of that Maddon boyish creativity. Not many big-league pitchers embrace the book "Who Moved My Cheese," as Archer did.

Using two mice and two little people as its main characters and written in the style of a parable or fable, the longtime New York Times best-seller addresses anticipating change, adapting to change quickly and enjoying change.

It's the kind of advice Maddon often offers to his players. It's the kind of thinking Archer has used to put himself on the cusp of greatness.

It's the Rays way to greatness.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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