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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. Rays weekend recap: A 2-1 start, bromance, Kiermaier starring


    The Rays had a busy weekend, opening their 34-game exhibition slate on Friday with a win over the Twins, and posting a 2-1 record thus far. Many of the regulars have yet to play, including 3B Evan Longoria, SS Matt Duffy, 1B Logan Morrison, RF Steven Souza Jr. as well as most of the front-line pitchers.

    They have a busy week ahead, including an appearance today in the Tampa Bay area, with a game at Clearwater against the Phillies, with LHP Blake Snell on the mound....

  2. 3 takeaways from Rays' 7-3 Sunday win over Red Sox


    Three takeaways from Rays' 7-3 win over Red Sox:

    1. Chris Archer is all business. With only two spring starts before joining Team USA and pitching the March 10 World Baseball Classic opener against Colombia, Archer was sharp and focused in his spring debut Sunday, sticking to his plan to work on fastball command, working in the 93-95 range and hitting most of his spots. He threw four-five sliders during his 28-pitch, two inning outing, giving new C Jesus Sucre a bit of a workout....

  3. Rays journal: New catcher Jesus Sucre's defense impresses Chris Archer

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Jose Molina made a big impression during his three years with the Rays, often for his hefty weight and light batting average.

    But Molina was known for his mastery of receiving and framing pitches, and RHP Chris Archer invoked his name Sunday after his first experience throwing to recently acquired C Jesus Sucre.

    "I like a lot of things Sucre can do," Archer said. "I like him a lot. … I've been telling everybody this, it's like throwing to a younger, slimmer Jose Molina with the actions of the hands. And his ability to throw, it's up there."...

    Jesus Sucre
  4. Monday: Rays at Phillies

    The Heater

    Today: Rays at Phillies

    1:05, Spectrum Field, 601 N Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. Pitchers: Rays — LH Blake Snell; Phillies — RH Jerad Eickhoff. Rays information: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297 (FAN-RAYS)

    On deck

    Tuesday: vs. Twins, 1:05. Rays: Alex Cobb; Twins: Hector Santiago

    Wednesday: vs Phillies, 1:05. Rays: Jake Odorizzi; Phillies: TBA...

  5. Rays report: Archer vs. Red Sox today at 1:05


    UPDATE, 10:02: Jose De Leon, Shawn Tolleson, Xavier Cedeno are slated to throw live BPs today, last hurdle before game action, likely mid-week.

    OF Steven Souza Jr. says surgically repaired left hip is responding well, expects to play in first spring game on Wednesday.

    DEVELOPING:  After splitting their first two games, the Rays face the Red Sox for the first of five times this spring this afternoon at 1:05 with likely Opening Day starter Chris Archer on the mound.

    Archer is pitching the first of two games for the Rays before heading off to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, planning to work two innings today.

    Even though the Rays have 30 position players in major-league camp, several are being held back early in the spring as they recover from injuries, so two minor-leaguers, OFs Joe McCarthy and Justin Williams, are in the starting lineup.

    Here is the lineup that was posted Saturday in the clubhouse:

    Robertson ss
    Kiermaier dh
    Weeks 1b
    Miller 2b
    Beckham 3b
    Sucre c
    Williams rf
    Field cf
    McCarthy lf
    Archer p

    And here is the Red Sox lineup:...

  6. Rays' Kevin Kiermaier embracing visibility, marketing opportunities

    The Heater


    Kevin Kiermaier was boarding a flight in Tampa, filing back to the coach seats he booked late heading to a New Year's Eve get-together in Utah with current and ex-Rays teammates and their significant others, when he heard someone calling his name from the first-class cabin.

    "I just turned around and this man and his wife were signaling to me and saying, 'Hey, please, will you switch seats with us?' " Kier­maier said. "They're like in the second row, and I say to him, 'We're in (row) 15, sir,' and he goes, 'I know, but me and my wife are huge Rays fans, we love the way you play, we'd love for you and your girlfriend to switch us seats. It'd be an honor, actually.' "...

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Jake Hager (69) and first baseman Jake Bauers (70) watch as the USSOCOM jump team lands in center field before the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.
  7. Rays journal: Chris Archer adamant WBC won't affect preparation

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Can RHP Chris Archer pitch in the World Baseball Classic and prepare as usual for the start of the season?

    He insists he can, heading into today's spring debut confident that while his routine won't be normal, the process won't be that different.

    "Honestly, no," he said. "I've been trying to say that since the off­season. I'll throw two innings (today), three innings the next start (March 4) and depending how it goes and our final decision, I'll throw three or four innings in that game."...

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing live batting practice during a Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.
  8. Rays' Longoria unenthused about proposals to speed up game

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Had intentional walks been automatic last season, LHP Enny Romero might still be with the Rays.

    Romero's failure to execute in a September game against Yankees phenom Gary Sanchez, resulting in a sacrifice fly rather than a free pass, was certainly a factor in his demise and his eventual departure via trade.

    And it was an example of what actually can be exciting — one way or the other — about one of the most mundane plays, which is set to become automated for this season as the first of several potential rule changes....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Enny Romero (45) after the top of the ninth inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Sept. 5, 2016. The Baltimore Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3.
  9. Sunday: Rays vs. Red Sox

    The Heater

    Today: Rays vs. Red Sox

    1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays — RH Chris Archer; Red Sox — RH Hector Velazquez. Radio: 620-AM. Rays information: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297 (FAN-RAYS)

    On deck

    Monday: at Phillies (Clearwater), 1:05. Rays — TBA; Phillies — Jerad Eickhoff...

  10. 3 takeaways from Rays 7-2 loss to Pirates


    Three takeaways from the Rays 7-2 loss to the Pirates:

    * CF Kevin Kiermaier is already ready to go. Kiermaier could barely contain his excitement over reporting to camp, and he was in full hustle mode in his Saturday debut, trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to get to second when a blooper dropped in and covering lots of ground in the outfield. "KK was flying all around the outfield,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He's fun to watch.''...

  11. Rays report: Home opener today vs. Pirates


    After opening the spring slate with a 3-1 win over the Twins on Friday in Fort Myers, the Rays play their home opener at the Charlotte Sports Park today against the Pirates at 1:05.

    RHP David Carpenter, a big-league veteran in camp on a minor-league deal, will start for the Rays; RHP Josh Lindblom for the Pirates.

    Of note in the Rays lineup, Corey Dickerson is batting leadoff, Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier is in CF, top prospect Willy Adames at short and veteran Rickie Weeks learning 1B.

    The team is encouraging fans to arrive early due to new MLB-mandated security procedures that require metal detectors and wanding at the gates, which open at 11. Today there is a free fan fest that includes player autographs, mascot appearances, music and some kids activities.

    Here is the Rays lineup, as posted on Friday
    Dickerson DH
    Kiermaier cf
    Weeks 1b
    Bauers lf
    Franklin 2b
    Casali c
    Adames ss
    Leonard 3b
    Peterson rf
    Carpenter p

    Also slated to pitch for the Rays are Dana Eveland, Danny Farquhar, Cory Rasmus, Justin Marks, Jaime Schultz, Neil Wagner and Taylor Guerrieri.

    And here is the Pirates split-squad lineup, with ex-Ray John Jaso at 1B:
    Harrison 2b
    Mercer ss
    Jaso 1b
    Wood dh
    Terdoslavich rf
    Osuna lf
    Gosselin 3b
    Meadows cf
    Stallings c
    Lindblom p...

    Corey Dickerson is batting leadoff today for the Rays.
  12. Takeaways from Rays 3-1 win: Beckham hitting, Stanek pitching


    Three takeaways from the Rays 3-1 spring-season opening win over the Twins:

    * Tim Beckham can put a jolt into a ball. Beckham came out swinging, lacing a double to center to start the game and then a triple to right-center. That power potential is what keeps the Rays intrigued and keeps him around. Though he started at shortstop Friday, the Rays will have him move not only around the infield but also, for the first time, to the outfield. That versatility will help them, and help him keep a spot on the roster. "Beck came out swinging ... he looked awesome,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "He's not short on power, being able to hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit it in the gaps. Nice to see he was ready to go early on.''...

  13. Rays journal: Infielders learning new positions this spring

    The Heater

    FORT MYERS — The Rays could have three infielders playing in different positions this season, with Matt Duffy moving to shortstop, Brad Miller to second base and Rickie Weeks to first.

    Duffy played short coming up before the Giants slid him to third in 2015, and Miller played 37 games at second with Seattle in 2013-15 before splitting '16 between shortstop and first....

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brad Miller (13) tracks a ground ball during batting practice before the start of the game between the Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.
  14. Saturday: Rays vs. Pirates

    The Heater

    Today: Rays vs. Pirates

    1:05, Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte. Pitchers: Rays — RH David Carpenter; Pirates — RH Josh Lindblom. Radio: 620-AM. Rays information: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297 (FAN-RAYS)

    On deck

    Sunday: vs. Red Sox, 1:05. Rays — Chris Archer; Red Sox — TBA...

  15. Rays and Mariners: a baseball bromance

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Is there something going on between the Rays and Mariners?

    Of the 65 players walking around Rays camp, 12 — nearly 20 percent — were formerly with Seattle, including eight (plus two minor-leaguers) acquired in four trades within the past 16 months.

    "We're the Tampa Bay Mariners," said reliever Danny Farquhar, shipped southeast in November 2015. "We should get shirts."...

    Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton (25) doubles in the third inning of the game between the Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.