MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Chris Archer pitched four scoreless innings and 21-year-old prospect Justin O’Conner hit three doubles in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 6-5 loss to their Double-A Montgomery affiliate Saturday.
Archer completed a strong spring with six strikeouts and no walks in the Rays’ final tuneup before Monday’s season opener against Toronto.
”I just felt like I was in a good place not only with my mind, but my body was working extremely well on top of that,” Archer said.
Luke Maile scored on Richie Schaffer’s sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Biscuits the go-ahead run. All the runs came off relievers from Montgomery’s roster after the Rays built a 5-0 lead.
The Biscuits scored four times in the sixth, including Jeff Malm’s two-run homer. They tied the game with Taylor Motter’s solo shot in the seventh.
The Rays scored twice in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk and Evan Longoria’s RBI single.
Michael Colla allowed one run in four innings of relief to get the win for the Biscuits.
O’Conner, who turns 22 on Monday, scored twice and threw out a pair of runners trying to steal second.
Some of the Rays remained home for a workout at Tropicana Field.
Archer allowed only a single in each of the first three innings, but none of the runners advanced any further.
He had allowed one earned run in 10 innings over four starts against major league teams. He was scheduled to start Monday’s game with the Twins, which was rained out.
Manager Joe Maddon agreed with the hard-throwing Archer’s assessment of his pitching performance.
”I actually felt really good about his changeup by the time he left the game, which was kind of neat,” Maddon said. ”He was really, really good.”
LINEUP & WAIT
Maddon hasn’t quite set his opening day lineup in ink.
The big question lies in divvying up turns behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan, expected to be the primary catcher, and Jose Molina. Molina caught 2012 Cy Young Award winner and Monday starter David Price most of last season.
”On Monday, you’re going to see something really close to what you’re seeing (Saturday), almost exactly,” Maddon said. ”I’m still not 100 percent decided on the catchers. You’re going to probably see the catchers divided in that first series, with Price pitching to J-Mo (Molina).”
O’Conner was the Rays’ first-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft. He’s expected to head to Class-A Charlotte.
”We’ve heard so much about him,” Maddon said. ”We saw him in spring training a little bit, but you look at the arm, it’s really a unique weapon. As a hitter, I know he had a good day. He’s got real good balance and base. He’s definitely got some bat speed.”
It was the Rays’ first trip to play the Biscuits, their affiliate since 2004. Archer, Longoria and Desmond Jennings, who’s from Birmingham, all had stops in Montgomery. Archer strolled around the neighborhood near the stadium before the game, people watching and dropping by an old favorite deli – which was closed.
Left fielder David DeJesus fouled a ball off his upper leg early in the game, but Maddon said he would be fine.