ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer, the man at the center of the latest tiff between his team and the Boston Red Sox, had a simple response when asked if he regretted his critical comments of David Ortiz on Sunday.
"Do I regret saying the truth?" Archer said Monday at Tropicana Field. "No."
Oh, this American League East rivalry remains hot. A day after Archer criticized the nine-time All-Star designated hitter for a "showboat" reaction to a three-run home run in the top of the third inning of the Red Sox’s 3-2 victory, the 25-year-old pitcher stuck to his words and felt comfortable enough to expand on what he meant by saying Ortiz "feels like he’s bigger than the game."
Ortiz, for his part, fired back Sunday by saying Archer is "not the right guy to be saying that, I don’t think. He’s got two days in the league."
"I heard what he said, and my immediate thought was you’re never too youthful to tell the truth and say things how you see them," Archer said before the Rays opened a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. " ‘Agitated’ is not the right word. ‘Angry’ is not the right word. He pimped a home run off me. I mean, I’ve gotten excited before, and they blow that out of proportion too, saying that I kissed my bicep (during a start against the Red Sox on June 12, 2013). Man, but honestly, I was in the infant stages of my career then.
"People say, ‘You should act like you’ve been there before.’ At that time in my career, I had never been there. At that time in my career, I had never been there. So I think we all know that’s how he plays the game. I don’t take back what I said, but what I said was true. I never saw Hank Aaron flip his bat. I’m not comparing the two, but they’re obviously in the same class of player as far as what they’ve accomplished. But I guess different people have different ways of reacting. I mean, that’s just who he is."
Archer said he didn’t see Ortiz’s post-swing bat toss until observing a replay after his start. Archer said that during the game he was concerned with watching the ball off Ortiz’s bat, hoping it would stay in play and fall short of the right-field wall.
Rays players were supportive of Archer, who fell to 6-6 with a 3.37 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 21 starts this season with the loss. Among those offering positive words was left-hander David Price, who was critical of Ortiz after the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner plunked the Red Sox star on May 30 at Fenway Park as possible retaliation for Ortiz’s post-swing actions in a home run off Price in Game 2 of the American League Division Series last October.
"He said what he needed to say," Price said Monday, referencing Archer. "He handled it extremely well. I wish I would have handled it that well."
Price continued on about what he perceived as hypocritical behavior by Ortiz.
"Like Archer said, him and Big Papi’s conversations have been great," Price said. "Same with me. Whenever you have conversations the way that he has them with people, you think he has respect for you. It doesn’t look that way. So that’s how he is, though. If anything ever happens, he wants to be on everybody’s good side. So that’s why he does what he does. And everybody knows that."
When asked if Ortiz actions were nothing more than playing to the fans for entertainment purposes, Price brushed off the suggestion.
"He’s got a TV show," Price said. "He’s got a lot of stuff going on outside of baseball. So I get it. He wants to be marketable."
Other Rays pitchers made their thoughts known. Right-hander Alex Cobb and reliever Joel Peralta were in agreement that Ortiz was wrong.
"That’s what he does — showboats every time he hits a home run," Cobb said. "It’s something that you deal with in certain ways. If you take offense to it, then it’s up to you to kind of try to manage your emotions and get through the game and deal with it on other terms."
"I don’t think he did it to Archer," Peralta said. "I think he did it to the team — what we have on going on in the past. But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do."
No surprise, Rays manager Joe Maddon stood behind his players. Call it another chapter in the heated history between Boston and Tampa Bay.
"I will always support our guys," Maddon said. "I’m kind of proud that our guys have said what they feel. I kind of dig that a lot, actually. The one thing I do encourage around here is that we do speak our minds, and we say what’s on our minds. And if you don’t happen to agree with it, don’t get angry."