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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

Email: topkin@tampabay.com

Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Passed over for manager, Dave Martinez leaves Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Dave Martinez insisted that in the month since Joe Maddon bolted the Rays, he had not thought one moment about what he would do if not chosen to replace him.

    Given a couple days to reflect after the jarring Friday news that he wasn't even among the three finalists to be the next manager, Martinez made the most logical decision and will leave the organization after seven years as bench coach and nine overall....

    Bench coach Dave Martinez has been endorsed by several players for the Rays manager job. .JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  2. Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen officially hired by Twins


    After four years as the Rays Triple-A pitching coach, Neil Allen was officially hired Tuesday to join the Twins big-league staff.

    Allen, 56, has been in the Rays organization for eight seasons overall, and earned raves at all levels.

    "We are sad to lose a great coach and a great person, but are happy for him for this outstanding opportunity,'' Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said....

  3. Passed over in manager race, Dave Martinez will leave Rays


    After being passed over as a candidate to replace Joe Maddon, longtime bench coach Dave Martinez announced today he will leave the Rays organization and consider other options.

    In a statement, Martinez said:

    "I informed the Rays this week that I have chosen to move forward and consider other opportunities that may present themselves outside the organization.  It was a hard decision that I think is best for myself and the Rays.  I want to thank our fans for their overwhelming support. It has meant the world to my family and me. For the past nine years, the players and staff have been an extension of my family and the memories that we have all shared and the relationships that have been built will stay with me forever.  I can't thank them enough for all they have meant to me."...

    Longtime bench coach Dave Martinez announced today he will leave the Rays organization and consider other options.
  4. Rays will continue Thanksmas events in Tampa Bay area


    Joe Maddon won't be cooking or serving the food this year, but the Rays will continue the Thanksmas program providing meals to needy residents throughout the Tampa Bay area and expanding into Orlando.

    Meals will be served the week of Dec. 15-19 at Salvation Army shelters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton; the Sallie House in St. Petersburg;  the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater; and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida in Orlando....

  5. Rays place Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa on release waivers


    The Rays placed C Jose Molina and INF Cole Figueroa on release waivers Monday, the last step before they become free agents.

    Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment last week as the Rays needed to open spots on their 40-man roster.

    Assuming they clear waivers on Wednesday they will become free agents and can sign anywhere.

    Players can be claimed for $1 off release waivers, but have to go on the 40-man roster and their contracts have to be assumed, which in Molina's case is for $2.75-million, which otherwise the Rays would be responsible for. A player can also refuse the claim and opt for free agency, but would forfeit his salary....

  6. Tampa's Gary Sheffield joins crowded Hall of Fame ballot


    Tampa's Gary Sheffield is one of an impressive half-dozen new additions to the baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which was released Monday.

    Sheffield hit 509 home runs (25th alltime) during a 22-season career, hitting 20 or more 14 times, and won a batting title and a World Series.

    Other new additions are Cy Young Award winners Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, plus slugger Carlos Delgado, infielder Nomar Garciaparra and closer Troy Percival, a former Ray.

    Top returnees to the ballot include Craig Biggio, who fell two votes shy of election last year, plus Mike Piazza,  Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.

    Percival is one of three former Rays on the ballot, joining newcomer Cliff Floyd and returnee Fred McGriff....

    The full Hall of Fame ballot
  7. Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen gets Twins job


      The Rays have lost Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen to the Twins, who hired him to new manager Paul Molitor's staff, per multiple reports.
        Allen, 56, has been in the Rays organization for eight seasons, the last four in Durham, and has earned raves at all levels.

  8. Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen gets Twins job


      The Rays have lost Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen to the Twins, who hired him to new manager Paul Molitor's staff, per multiple reports.
        Allen, 56, has been in the Rays organization for eight seasons, the last four in Durham, and has earned raves at all levels.

  9. Rays looking for clean break from past with new manager

    The Heater

    So, about the Rays cutting their managerial list down to the unexpected trio of Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez and Don Wakamatsu

    First was what baseball operations president Matt Silverman called the "especially difficult" decision to bypass — and likely now part ways with — longtime bench coach Dave Martinez.

    While Martinez has a different personality and style than Joe Maddon, Rays officials clearly wanted a clean break from the past, their suggestion that a "new voice" was more likely to push the team forward hinting that they sensed staleness in the clubhouse that could linger....

    FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu talks to his players before Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the San Francisco Giants in Kansas City, Mo. Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays announced Friday, Nov. 21.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) NY170
  10. How Rays 40-man roster looks now


    After a busy week of transactions, here is how the Rays 40-man roster looks now:

    PITCHERS (20)
    Matt Andriese
    Chris Archer
    Grant Balfour
    Jeff Beliveau
    Brad Boxberger
    Alex Cobb
    Alex Colome
    Jose Dominguez
    Grayson Garvin
    Steve Geltz
    Brandon Gomes
    Nathan Karns
    Jake McGee
    Mike Montgomery
    Matt Moore
    Jake Odorizzi
    C.J. Riefenhauser
    Enny Romero
    Drew Smyly
    Kirby Yates

    CATCHERS (3)
    Curt Casali
    Ryan Hanigan
    Justin O'Conner

    Tim Beckham
    Ryan Brett
    Yunel Escobar
    Logan Forsythe
    Nick Franklin
    Hak-Ju Lee
    James Loney
    Evan Longoria
    Sean Rodriguez
    Ben Zobrist


    David DeJesus
    Brandon Guyer
    Desmond Jennings
    Matt Joyce
    Kevin Kiermaier
    Mikie Mahtook
    Wil Myers...

  11. Rays name managerial finalists: Cash, Ibanez, Wakamatsu

    The Heater


    Whenever speaking about the Rays managerial vacancy, baseball operations president Matt Silverman emphasizes the priority of maintaining their clubhouse culture. • But he made it clear Friday they want a "new voice" to do so, passing over longtime bench coach Dave Martinez in naming three external candidates as finalists: Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez and Don Wakamatsu. • Of the three, only Wakamatsu, 51, has managerial experience (2009-10 in Seattle) or more than a couple of years as a coach. Cash, 36, is a Tampa native who after playing spent one year as an advance scout and the past two as the Indians' bullpen coach. And Ibanez, 42, is still technically an active player, finishing his 19th season last month with the Royals. • Having started with a field of 10 to replace Joe Maddon, the Rays will bring in the three finalists for in-depth interviews starting Dec. 1, with plans to pick one before the winter meetings open the following week in San Diego. • "We were very impressed by the 10 finalists we interviewed and could have envisioned any of them managing our club," Silverman said in a statement....

    CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 17:  Raul Ibanez #28 of the Seattle Mariners runs the base after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 17, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
  12. Joel Peralta trade brings Rays 'electric stuff'

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had a pretty good sense of what veteran reliever Joel Peralta could do for them based on his performance the last four seasons.

    But late Thursday, they traded that security for the potential upside of the power arm of Jose Dominguez in a four-player deal with the Dodgers.

    Dominguez, 24, has been clocked at 103 mph and, despite two drug suspensions and shoulder issues that sidelined him part of last season, the Rays see the possibility of a dominant reliever....

  13. Rays manager finalists are Cash, Ibanez and Wakamatsu


    UPDATE, 5:33: Team president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said the decision to leave out Martinez was "especially difficult" but "n the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture.''

    Martinez did not return text messages and his voicemail was not accepting messages.

    UPDATE, 5:18:  The three finalists for the Rays managerial job are Kevin Cash, Raul Ibanez and Don Wakamatsu, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    Dave Martinez, the longtime bench coach, was eliminated from consideration, along with five others. A sixth, Brewers special assistant Craig Counsell, withdrew his name from consideration.

    Cash, 36, is a Tampa native currently working as the Indians bullpen coach. Ibanez, 42, is still technically an active player, having finished last season with the Royals. Wakamatsu, 51, previously managed the Mariners and us currently the Royals bench coach....

    Don Wakamatsu, Kevin Cash and Raul Ibanez are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays announced Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.
  14. Silverman calls first deal with Friedman "smoothly awkward"


    For more than 10 years, Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman worked side by side with the Rays, transitioning as Stuart Sternberg took ownership and then running the team.

    When Friedman left last month for a big bucks deal with the Dodgers, Silverman, who had been team president, took his place as head of baseball operaitons.

    And Thursday they worked together in a different way, collaborating on a four-player trade thay sent veteran reliever Joel Peralta and prospect Adam Liberatore to the Dodgers in return for pitchers Joe Dominguez and minor-leaguer Greg Harris....

  15. Rays cut ties with catcher Jose Molina, trade Peralta to Dodgers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — For most of the past three seasons, Rays officials insisted veteran catcher Jose Molina's ability to frame pitches and coax extra strikes from umpires offset other deficiencies in his game.

    But no longer, as the Rays, with Matt Silverman now heading baseball operations, decided to cut ties, designating Molina for assignment at Thursday's midnight deadline to set their 40-man roster. They have 10 days to trade Molina or release him and eat his $2.75 million salary for 2015....

    Jose Molina