Rays keeping eye on their four Classic players

Pitchers Archer, De Leon take steps to prepare for tournament

Rays keeping eye on their four Classic players

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Four Rays players, including starter Chris Archer and closer Alex Colome, will be headed to the World Baseball Classic, and the team doesn't believe being a part of the international event will impact their season.

But the Rays will be watching closely.

"Look, when Chris Archer's throwing 98 [mph], throwing 91-mph sliders, I'll watch it and pull for him, but I'll be cringing," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Archer (United States), Colome (Dominican Republic), and fellow right-hander Jose De Leon (Puerto Rico), along with left-hander Jose Alvarado (Venezuela), all will take a leave from Spring Training to participate in this year's Classic.

"We're always going to be concerned about our players, whether they're getting ready for Opening Day against the Yankees or getting ready to go to the [World Baseball Classic]," Cash said. "We'd love to have our eyes and hands on them all the time. But it's a great honor for these guys to get to play and represent their country. So we're very aware of that."

Archer said his Spring Training regimen won't be affected.

"It's all mapped out," Archer said. "It's not going to affect me at all."

Archer allowed that he would depart Port Charlotte on March 7 to join the U.S. team, which will play exhibition games in Fort Myers.

"We'll play the Red Sox and play the Twins. And I pitch in the first round, four innings and 60 pitches," Archer said. "I've known I was going to play for six months now. When I initially got asked, I said, 'I'm going to play, but we're going to have to make it work.' Just because the pitch count is 65, I don't have to throw 65 pitches. It's just wherever I'm at. However, I'm feeling, we'll get close to that, maybe not all the way to [that count]."

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Any inconvenience brought on by participating in the tournament will be trumped by the obvious.

"It's a dream come true," Archer said.

De Leon won't be with the Puerto Rico team in the first round. If the team advances, he could be pressed into service. From his vantage point, De Leon sees just one possible problem.

"You have to be careful because of the intensity pitching in that atmosphere that early is something that you're not used to," De Leon said. "But I really don't worry too much about [getting injured]. If you pitch scared, something is going to happen. Whenever you get hurt, you get doing whatever. It is different, but you have to be careful."

Cash told reporters, "You're cautiously optimistic these guys are going to be smart about the workload."

"The good thing is, the two guys that are going, Chris Archer and Alex Colome … they do a really good job of managing and knowing their limitations, and getting themselves ready to perform."

The one thing Cash said he isn't worried about is his pitchers getting enough work.

"No, it's kind of more the opposite," Cash said. "You just worry that they're competing against All-Stars all over the country, all over the world. And it's very tough to tell committed pitchers or athletes to control yourself in those settings. Because that [World Baseball Classic] will be talked about. It will probably take away from Spring Training because it's such a hyped event. So you worry about that."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.