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Rays extend Archer with a six-year deal

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Right-hander Chris Archer will be able to take the mound on Thursday night with a clear mind now that his contract negotiations with the Rays have officially come to an end.

Tampa Bay inked its promising starter to a six-year contract extension that will run through 2019, with club options for '20 and '21. The deal guarantees Archer at least $25.5 million and could reach upwards of $43.75 million if the options are picked up.

The signing was announced just one day before Archer was set to make his first start of the season and now the focus shifts back to the diamond.

"The whole situation, we were going through it during Spring Training and I pitched well," Archer said. "So that didn't really affect me, separating business and baseball. My complete focus for the past two weeks has been on the Blue Jays' lineup and now I'm looking forward to going out there and executing."

Archer is coming off an impressive rookie season during which he posted a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts. He also had a pair of shutouts and struck out 101 over 128 2/3 innings. His first task of 2014 will be trying to salvage a series split with Toronto.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow has the opposite goal for his team. Toronto hasn't won a road series over the Rays since April 6-8, 2007. The stretch of 19 consecutive non-winning series at Tropicana Field is the longest such streak since the Rays had 25 consecutive non-winning series at Fenway Park from 2000-2008.

The Blue Jays took two of the first three games in St. Petersburg and a victory in the series finale Thursday would ensure that streak finally comes to an end.

"I've known the history, I've heard it," veteran starter Mark Buehrle said. "It kind of felt like when I was with Chicago and we went into the Metrodome in Minnesota and if we won one game a year, it was like we won the World Series because we could not win there for some reason.

"Obviously it hasn't been a good place for this team, but hopefully we'll come out and take this series [Thursday] and get off to an even better start. At least a split, come in and say we're going to take two of four from these guys, I think we'd take, but hopefully we come out better."

Morrow's coming off a rather inconsistent Spring Training which saw him post a 5.74 ERA in four games. He struggled with his fastball command throughout much of camp, but appeared to solve some of those issues in his final outing.

Blue Jays: Status quo at shortstop
Just because the Blue Jays lost Jose Reyes one at-bat into the season with a tight hamstring doesn't mean they will be looking outside the organization for additional help.

"No, we expect Jose to be back somewhat soon," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "We don't expect it to be that long of a stint."

Reyes is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on April 16. It's not known whether Reyes will be able to return by that date, but he's optimistic about playing somewhere around that date. Until then, Jonathan Diaz is expected to get most of the playing time at shortstop.

Rays: Teammates react to the Archer extension
The news of Archer's six-year contract extension went over well inside the clubhouse.

"I'm excited for him," Wil Myers said. "I think that's awesome for him to be able to do that. It sets him up for life. He's a great pitcher. I know he's excited about it, so I'm happy for him."

Myers believes Archer's attitude will help him avoid the adverse effects from the pressure and expectations that come with a deal.

"I think he has a good mindset about him," Myers said. "I think he's going to really exceed it. Any player's going to want to exceed the amount of money he makes. I think he's a guy that can do that."

Alex Cobb said that he was happy that Archer "could be set up for the rest of his life."

"If anything was to happen, he would be OK. He doesn't ever have to work again," Cobb said. "Anytime you can do that and kind of take the business side out of baseball, and now he can just go out there and pitch and not worry about anything. I think it's going to do wonders for him and his career."

Worth mentioning
• The Blue Jays' staff has not allowed a home run in the first three games of the season, which is the third-longest streak to start the year in franchise history. The only two longer streaks were in 1989 and '99, both five games.

• Tampa Bay's bullpen has allowed just one run in nine innings. The only run came against right-hander Josh Lueke on a home run by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista on Wednesday night.

• The Rays are just 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position over the past two games.

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