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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801


Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Red-hot Steven Souza Jr. injured in Rays' loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The Rays lost not only Saturday's game to the Blue Jays 4-1 but also one of their top all-around players as Steven Souza Jr. had to leave after being hit by a pitch on his left hand.

    Matt Andriese gave the Rays the kind of extended start they needed by working seven innings, but he was done in by a couple of mistakes, specifically an RBI double by Russell Martin and a two-run homer by Justin Smoak....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Andriese walks off the mound after giving up a 2-run home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Smoak in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday April 29, 2017. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP) FJT117
  2. Rays Steven Souza Jr. leaves game after being hit on hand by pitch


    UPDATE, 4:06: The Rays got what sounds like good news, with word that Souza has a left hand contusion and initial X-rays were negative. He will be evaluated further over the next 24-48 hours.

    DEVELOPING: Rays OF Steven Souza Jr. left today's game after being hit on the left hand by a pitch.

    Souza was motionless on the ground for several minutes, then got up and, after being checked by assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker, left the game.

    Souza has been one of the Rays top all-around players through the first month of the season, and last week was the AL Player of the Week....

  3. For starters: Andriese on mound for matinee vs. Jays


    UPDATE, 11:29: The Rays had some concern about RHP Jake Odorizzi, who was hit on the left leg during his Wednesday sim game (whcih was to show that his injured left hamstring was fine), but Cash said he threw his bullpen session with no issues on Friday and is set to return as planned on Monday. "I don't envision him not making his start,'' he said. ...Though Dickerson is in the lineup today vs. a lefty that doesn't sound like it will become a regular thing as Brad Miller is still likely to get more of those opportunities. ... RHP Chase Whitley was excited to get his first big-league save last night.

    Here is the Jays lineup:
    Pillar cf
    Carrera lf
    Bautista rf
    Morales dh
    Smoak 1b
    Martin c
    Coghlan 3b
    Barney 2b
    Goins ss
    Liriano p


  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways on Friday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    Good or bad, RF Steven Souza Jr. tends to make things interesting. Just in the first four innings Friday, he made two diving catches, ran into the wall to haul in a ball and misplayed a ball off his glove.

    Rookie RHP Austin Pruitt has made his rough six-outing start to the season, and his big-league career, look like a long time ago with the way he is pitching now. Friday he worked three impressive innings, showing poise , in keeping the Rays close so they could rally....

  5. Rays at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m. Saturday, Toronto

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    1:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Matt Andriese (1-0, 3.86)

    Jays: LH Francisco Liriano (1-2, 4.58)

    On deck

    Sunday: at Jays, 1:07. Rays, RH Chris Archer (2-1, 3.94); Jays, RH Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70)...

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Francisco Liriano #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays  poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
  6. Four homers in final two innings rally Rays past Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Blake Snell gave the Rays another too-short start Friday and more reasons to wonder if he really is ready to be a key part of their rotation.

    But his teammates again showed the ability to finish strong, turning the bad beginning into a happy ending by rallying for a 7-4 win over the struggling Blue Jays.

    The Rays evened their record at 12-12 by flexing their muscles, flipping a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 advantage by hitting three home runs in the eighth inning — by Corey Dickerson (his sixth), Evan Longoria (fourth), and Logan Morrison (fifth)....

    Blake Snell gives up only two runs against the Blue Jays but throws 96 pitches in five innings, 43 of them balls.
  7. Rays journal: Blue Jays call up Luke Maile just in time to face Rays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — C Luke Maile was planning on seeing some old friends this weekend.

    Dropped April 2 by the Rays, claimed by the Blue Jays and sent to Triple-A Buffalo, he was looking forward to catching up during a weekend series in Durham.

    Then he got word late Thursday that he was being called up by the Jays. And then he realized when he got to Toronto, he would be playing against the Rays....

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson (29) in the dugout after scoring on the triple by right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the second inning of the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
  8. Video preview: Rays at Blue Jays


    With a day off to get over their tough walkoff walk loss in Baltimore on Wednesday, the Rays tonight open a weekend series against the struggling Blue Jays. Here is our video preview from the Rogers Centre, with first pitch tonight at 7:07:


    Evan Longoria scores as Russell Martin waits for the throw during a game between the Rays and Blue Jays earlier this month in St. Petersburg.
  9. For starters: Snell on the hill as Rays face struggling Blue Jays


    UPDATE, 6:10: The Rays had a slight scare during BP when rookie INF Daniel Robertson was hit in the head by a thrown ball. Robertson was fielding a grounder when he was hit, but the bill of his cap deflected the ball from a direct hit. He was checked by Rays staff and said afterward he was fine, more startled than anything.

    UPDATE, 6:05: LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm tightness) had a PRP/stem cell injection today by Dr, James Andrews which means he will have no activity for a month but could still make a return in th second half. ... OF Colby Rasmus is sick today but expected to stay with AA Montgomery for rehab games Saturday and Sunday, with the potential to rejoin the Rays Monday in Miami; though it may make more sense to wait for Wednesday, when they have the DH available. ... To complete the off-season trade of OF Mikie Mahtook to Detroit the Rays got RHP Drew Smith, a hard-throwing reliever who will join the advanced Class A Stone Crabs. ... Former Rays C Luke Maile was called up by the Jays and is in the lineup today, having caught Snell many times on their way up.

    Blue Jays lineup:
    Pillar cf
    Barney 3b
    Bautista rf
    Morales dh
    Smoak 1b
    Pearce lf
    Travis 2b
    Maile c
    Goins ss
    Stroman p...

    Blake Snell will start for the Rays, with plans to go back to the full windup delivery after working out of the stretch exclusively in his last start.
  10. Rays at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Friday, Toronto

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Blue Jays

    7:07; Rogers Centre, Toronto

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: LH Blake Snell (0-2, 3.38)

    JAYS: RH Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.10)

    On Snell: Catches a break as Jays are without righty sluggers Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. Plans return to windup after working out of stretch last start. Is 1-2, 4.40 in three starts vs. Jays....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  11. Rays send Mallex Smith to Triple A to prepare for Colby Rasmus' activation

    The Heater

    With Rasmus coming, Smith joins Durham

    TORONTO — The Rays activated outfielder Mallex Smith from the 10-day disabled list Thursday and optioned him to Triple-A Durham.

    Smith was a catalyst for the Rays until straining his right hamstring April 13. But with outfielder Colby Rasmus expected to be activated as soon as tonight and join the lineup, the Rays sent Smith straight to Triple A....

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 2: Mallex Smith #0 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a bunt single to the catcher during the third inning of a game against the New York Yankees on April 2, 2017 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) 700010215
  12. Rays' Alex Cobb is confident he will find his changeup … but when?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Alex Cobb remains confident that there will be a game, and in the not too distant future, when he has full command of and confidence in the nasty changeup that made him a top-notch starter before his May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery.

    But until then, his starts are going to a be a battle, a test of guts and determination to get through them.

    That was the case again in Wednesday's start against the Orioles as Cobb was hit early and often, allowing seven singles to the first 11 batters but still managed to claw his way through five innings in a game that was not complete at press time. Shortstop Tim Beckham homered his first two times up....

  13. Defensive shifts can be double-edged swords, just ask Rays

    The Heater

    The Rays have been up to their usual shifty business, frequently bunching three defenders on one side of the infield or the other, certain their data-driven positioning takes away more than it gives.

    Through the first three weeks of play, the Rays have shifted more than any team in the majors (281), according to data provided by Inside Edge.

    Correspondingly, they lead the majors in both saving (17) and aiding (12) the most hits due to their shifted positioning, though it should be noted that shift stats can be subjective, starting with the definition of what constitutes a shift. ...

    The Rays position three infielders to the left of the second-base bag, leaving what could be a tantalizing hole on the right side of the infield for the Tigers’ Nick Castellanos.
  14. Rays activate Mallex Smith, send him to AAA Durham


    OF Mallex Smith was activated off the DL by the Rays and optioned to AAA Durham.

    Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring. But with OF Colby Rasmus expected to come off he DL this weekend, the Rays felt it was better to send Smith to the minors now.

    Doing it that was allows them to keep OF Shane Peterson for a couple extra days, and as protection if Rasmus has a setback. Peterson is out of options so has to be passed through waivers, and potentially lost, before he can be sent to the minors....

    Mallex Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring.
  15. Rays journal: Longoria foul ball that spins back fair proves baseball adage correct

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There's a saying among baseball people, even longtimers, that one of the joys of the game is that on any night you might witness something never seen before.

    Which brings us to Tuesday's seventh inning.

    Rays 3B Evan Longoria grounded a ball toward third base foul enough that it hit on the grass 3-feet wide of the line — and then somehow spun fiercely back into fair territory, where Orioles 3B Manny Machado picked it up and, with Longoria understandably getting a late start, threw to first for an easy out. (Go to for video.)...