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Pirates pitcher Archer has a clear mind — and less hair

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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP)Chris Archer is 2 + pounds lighter than at the end of last season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander didn’t go on a winter diet, though. Instead, Archer cut off his trademark dreadlocks.

”It was time for a change,” Archer said Friday after a spring training workout. ”It was time for something different.”

Archer feels the same way about his pitching. He had an awful 2019 season, compiling a 3-9 record and 5.19 ERA in 23 starts.

A Florida resident and North Carolina native, Archer spent a large portion of the offseason working out in Southern California.

”The thing about being out there is it gave me a chance to disconnect,” Archer said. ”And disconnecting is something I really needed to do after what happened last season.”

Archer not only has less hair and a clearer mind this spring, but some strong ideas about how he can get his career back on track. He was a two-time All-Star with the Tampa Bay Rays, yet has gone 6-12 with a 4.92 ERA in 33 starts since the Pirates acquired him in a trade in July 2018.

”I just want to go out there and show people,” he said. ”I feel like I’m in a really good spot. I know myself and I know that there’s more room to grow. I’m going to tinker with things in spring, but it’s going to be a much better version of myself than there was last year.”

Archer also finished last season on the injured list when shoulder soreness forced him to leave a start against the Washington Nationals on Aug. 20. Archer said he’s back to full health.

First-year Pirates manager Derek Shelton knows Archer from his time as the Rays’ hitting coach. Shelton believes Archer is poised for a bounce-back season.

”I like the bounce in his step, and I’ve said this numerous times, I think he’s going to have a big year,” Shelton said. ”I know he likes a challenge and I think last year he got challenged. I’m excited to see how he’s moving around. That’s the Chris Archer I know.”

Archer had a 3.00 ERA over his final four starts of last season, which gave him at least some positive momentum going into the offseason. He has also quickly connected with new pitching coach Oscar Marin during the early days of spring training.

”I went to just being myself,” Archer said. ”I went back to the windup. I went back to predominantly forcing fastballs and sliders. My changeup’s come a long way, too. I’m just getting back to myself and pitching like me. The new staff has been great about encouraging that.”

NOTES: 1B Josh Bell will experiment with a sidearm throwing motion this spring. He was charged with 10 errors last season, seven of which came on throws. . SS Oneil Cruz, one of the Pirates’ top prospects, reported to camp Friday. There has been speculation the 6-foot-7, 180-pound Cruz might eventually switch positions but the Pirates plan on him being the starting shortstop with Double-A Altoona to begin the season.

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