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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' Chris Archer shuts down Blue Jays after allowing homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer was relatively pleased with how he battled through six innings against the potent Blue Jays on Saturday, allowing just one hit, albeit a two-run home run.

    But it was after that homer by Jose Bautista, just over the short fence in the leftfield corner in the third inning, that Archer showed a reason to feel good about his performance going forward as he retired the next 11 in his most impressive stretch of the season....

    Rays starter Chris Archer retires 11 straight batters after giving up a two-run homer in the third.
  2. Rays-Blue Jays Sunday preview

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Blue Jays

    1:10, Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $26-300; available at Tropicana Field box office,, team Tampa store; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game time

    Promotion: Pitch-grip baseball to all kids 14 and under

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 3.58)...

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses for a photo during the Blue Jays' photo day on February 27, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
  3. Casali walkoff single gives Rays win over Blue Jays (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As much as the Rays have struggled offensively through the first month of the season, they felt pretty good about how April ended:

    With the excitement of a 4-3 walkoff win Saturday over the Blue Jays, catcher Curt Casali being swarmed in celebration after singling in Brad Miller.

    And with the confidence drawn from playing just about .500 ball at 11-12 despite not pitching well initially and still not showing with any consistency the firepower they are certain they have....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer winds up to pitch during the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday evening, April 30, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Rays 
  4. Rays Tales: Architect Andrew Friedman returns this week with Dodgers

    The Heater

    During a decade-plus with the Rays organization, Andrew Friedman never swung a bat or threw a ball, except for the omnipresent pink rubber one he would toss around the office and hallways for fun.

    But he had as much to do with their 2008 transformation into perennial contenders as anyone on the field, in the dugout or elsewhere in the front office.

    "He is pretty much the architect of the whole deal," pitching coach Jim Hickey said....

    Andrew Friedman, who helped turn the Rays into an annual contender as their executive vice president of baseball operations for nine years, returns to town this week with the Dodgers.
  5. For starters: Rays vs. Jays, on Archer day


    UPDATE, 4:17: Cash said he needs to find ways to get Guyer involved more since he has been swinging well and a number of Rays are struggling. ... He also said he is leaning towards making Souza the No. 5 hitter, which means dropping Jennings to 7 when they face a lefty. .... Boxberger threw a 30-pitch bullpen and will throw another early next week and then advance to two live batting practice sessions. ... Cobb and Whitley also threw bullpen sessions.

    Blue Jays lineup:
    Saunders lf
    Donaldson 3b
    Bautista rf
    Encarnacion dh
    Tulowitzki ss
    Smoak 1b
    Pillar cf
    Goins 2b
    Thole c
    Happ p

    Chris Archer, coming off his first win of the season on Monday, will be on the mound for the Rays against a Jays lineup that beat him on opening day.
  6. Former Rays reliever Balfour retires

    The Heater

    Former Rays reliever Balfour retires

    Former Rays reliever Grant Balfour has decided to retire, ending a 19-year pro career that included All-Star and World Series appearances.

    "I had a pretty good career," Balfour told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday. "I was lucky to play for such a long time. … I got to do a lot of things."

    Balfour, 38, who still lives in Clearwater, pitched parts of 12 seasons in the majors, including two stints with the Rays. He emerged as a key part of their 2008 World Series team, left as a free agent for Oakland in 2011, then came back to Tampa Bay in 2014 but was not as successful. He last pitched in the majors for the Rays in April 2015....

  7. Former All-Star reliever Grant Balfour officially retires


    Former AL All-Star reliever Grant Balfour has decided to officially retire, ending a 19-year pro career.

    "I had a pretty good career,'' Balfour told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday. "I was lucky to play for such a long time. .. I got to do a lot of things. ... It was definitely a lot of fun.''

    The Australian native pitched parts of 12 seasons in the majors, making the 2013 AL All-Star team when with Oakland and five trips to the postseason, including the Rays' 2008 run to the World Series. He last pitched for the Rays in April 2015, and after being released made a brief comeback attempt with Triple-A Durham....

  8. Rays-Blue Jays Friday preview; Gary Busey in town

    The Heater

    Now pitching … Chet 'Rocket' Steadman

    Gary Busey played washed-up pitcher Chet "Rocket" Steadman in the 1993 film Rookie of the Year and has appeared in other sports movies, including Slap Shot 2 and Point Break. He will be on the mound tonight at the Trop to throw out the first pitch, in town for the Sunscreen Film Festival, which includes a 3:15 p.m. Saturday showing at SunDial of his new psychological thriller, CandiLand. Tickets are $8, and Busey will do a Q&A afterward moderated by Times film critic Steve Persall....

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Aaron Sanchez #41 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses for a photo during the Blue Jays' photo day on February 27, 2016 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
  9. Rays impressed with Souza's growth so far

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Even before he made like Superman with a spectacular diving catch in Wednesday's game against the Orioles, OF Steven Souza Jr. had given the Rays plenty to be excited about in the first month of his second season.

    Through 21 games, he leads the team with 11 RBIs and five homers (matched by Corey Dickerson), has a .338 on-base percentage to go with a .277 average and has looked more comfortable and a bit calmer in rightfield....

    Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) scores on an RBI double by Tampa Bay Rays catcher Curt Casali (19) in the fifth inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, April 25, 2016.
  10. Anticipation key part of Longoria's defense

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Evan Longoria is into mind games.

    Especially while playing baseball games.

    While much of Longoria's deft handi­work at third base — including a pair of Gold Gloves — looks to be the result of his quick feet, soft hands and accurate arm, it is also the product of his mental preparation, anticipating myriad scenarios and envisioning what play he would make....

    “The thing about Longo is he … makes difficult plays look easy,” manager says Kevin Cash says of his two-time Gold Glove third baseman.
  11. Here's that amazing catch by Rays OF Steven Souza Jr.


    Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. made a spectacular running/diving/flying through the air catch in Wednesday's game against the Orioles, earning high praises from his teammates. Manager Kevin Cash provided the ultimate compliment with a nod toward Gold- and Platinum Glove award-winning CF Kevin Kiermaier, saying it was "KK-esque.'' And Kiermaier told Souza Jr. it was "Platinum-ish.''...

    Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. flips his helmet after grounding out to end the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. The Baltimore Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1.
  12. Ex-farmhand Rickard homers as Rays lose to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rays left outfielder Joey Rickard off their 40-man roster and thus eligible for the December Rule 5 draft, they knew there was a chance they would see him in an opposing uniform.

    Wednesday it was a painful sight, as Rickard hit a three-run homer off Matt Moore to lead his Orioles past the Rays 3-1.

    Rickard's fifth-inning homer was the difference in a game that featured impressive work by both starters — Moore and Chris Tillman — and very little offense, with seven hits total....

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brad Miller (13) fields a grounder by Baltimore Orioles center fielder Joey Rickard (23) in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, April 27, 2016.
  13. Rays rave about Souza's spectacular catch

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. got some pretty high praise after making a spectacular running, diving, flying-through-the-air catch in front of the right-centerfield wall Wednesday.

    "That was Platinum-ish," said Gold and Platinum Glove-winning CF Kevin Kiermaier.

    Souza took a good route back and toward the wall for the fourth-inning drive by the Orioles' Chris Davis, then took flight just before the warning track. Per MLB Statcast, he covered 88 feet at a top speed of 19.5 mph....

    Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. slides on the warning track under centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier after catching Chris Davis’ drive in the fourth.
  14. Rays: off; advanced metrics suggest promise for hitters

    The Heater

    Today: off

    Next game: 7:10 Friday, vs. Blue Jays. Probable pitchers — Rays: LH Drew Smyly (1-2, 2.51); Jays: RH Aaron Sanchez (1-1, 3.33)

    Quote of the day

    "It's fun. It's pretty easy, too, just put it in the vicinity and it's going to go a long way."

    Kevin Cash, Rays manager, on throwing BP to slugging Corey Dickerson

    Numbers of the day...

  15. For starters: Rays vs. Orioles, looking for a sweep


    UPDATE, 4:55: RHP Brad Boxberger threw 25 pitches off the mound in what he considered his first real bullpen session, aiming for a mid-May return from core muscle repair surgery. ...

    Cash said he has been pleased with how the offense has come around though it needs to be more efficient.  ...

    With a win tonight, the Rays would be over .500 for the first time since Aug. 22. ......

    Matt Moore will be on the mound for the Rays.