Q&A with Chris Archer

With a 7-1 record and 0.58 ERA through his first eight starts at Double-A Tennessee, right-hander Chris Archer is arguably the hottest pitcher in the Chicago Cubs' farm system. The 21-year-old North Carolina native made five starts at Double-A before surrendering his first earned run following a mid-season promotion from Class High-A Daytona.

Archer was one of three pitching prospects Chicago acquired from the Cleveland Indians for Mark DeRosa in December, 2008. He made his debut in the Cubs' system, spending his second straight season in full-season Low-A ball in the Midwest League for Peoria, going 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 26 starts.

Archer began 2010 in the Florida State League and Daytona, winning his last five starts there and finishing 7-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 82 strikeouts to 26 walks in 72 1/3 innings before earning the promotion to Tennessee.

His 14 wins this season and 126 strikeouts lead the Cubs' farm system, and his 1.97 places second in the organization, one point behind Daytona's Trey McNutt. InsideTheIvy.com caught up with the right-hander after his start Tuesday against Huntsville, in which he pitched a season-high seven innings and surrendered one run and one hit (a solo home run) and struck out eight batters.

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Q: You're now 7-1 since coming up to Double-A. Have you been kind of surprised at the success you've had so quickly at this level?

A: I always go out there confident and convicted in my stuff and my ability. I did a lot of hard work at the end of last season, in this (past) off-season, in spring training, and up to this point. I'm not surprised, not content, but I am happy with how everything is going for sure.

Q: Has control and cutting back on the walks been the biggest thing you've worked on? Lately you've been able to go six or seven innings instead of four or five.

A: Yes, sir, definitely. I haven't been giving up too many hits lately, and my strikeout numbers are pretty good. But the only thing you kind of see is the walks, especially recently. It's just a work in progress. Like I said, I'm confident in my stuff. Sometimes I miss and (Tuesday) I felt pretty good with everything and got ahead of hitters. That's my goal: get ahead of hitters and then I can work on my other pitches.

Q: When you're on like you were Tuesday, what's different for you in those starts versus the start before that when you struck out five but also walked five?

A: Those walks usually come with two outs, or when we have a five or six run lead and I just get kind of careless. It's all about just staying focused for me. If I do fall behind 2-0, usually we have a big lead and knowing if they hit a home run, that's fine. Just pound the strike zone, get ahead early and try to throw quality pitches early.

Q: In two of your starts at Tennessee, you walked five batters but only surrendered a run. How were you able to minimize the damage in those outings?

A: Good defense, staying confident, not giving in and keep pounding the strike zone.

Q: What pitches are you working on right now and where are you with their development?

A: I'm always trying to command my fastball, and my slider is my second best pitch. I'm always trying to work more of my changeup in. If I have to say I'm working on any one or two specific pitches, it would be my fastball command and my changeup.

Q: How have things changed for you in your second season with the Cubs?

A: Last year was definitely a learning experience for me as a pitcher, and for the Cubs to learn me. They traded for me, but they hadn't seen me pitch a whole lot. They pretty much said, ‘Hey, go out and pitch however you want. Just use whatever ability you have, and do the best you can and then we'll work on mechanics, how to attack hitters, etc, etc.'

I definitely learned how to use my athletic ability to get better at commanding my fastball. Me and all the pitching coaches in the organization have done a lot of individual work and drills to get my mechanics in order, and that's what's been the biggest difference: having found mechanics and confidence. The Cubs have done a good job of instilling both of those.

Q: You're always going to be working on mechanics, but what are some of the mechanical problems you've had?

A: The biggest thing for me is to stay back and pick up my target early, because I rush a little bit and my lower half is ready to throw and my arm just drags. If I just slow everything down, my arm has time to catch up and it's a lot easier for me to command my fastball.

Q: A lot of guys say the biggest transition in the minor leagues is from High-A or Low-A to Double-A. Have you noticed a difference right away in the competition that you've seen?

A: Oh, definitely. Everything around you gets better: the umpires are better, the hitters are better and, your defense behind you is better. So maybe some plays when you're in Low-A or High-A that don't get made there, they get made here. Guys run down balls in the outfield for you and that's what you don't see in the box score. Yeah, I've been pretty successful, but a lot of the credit goes to those guys.

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