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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


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  1. Rays' Chris Archer says he wasn't throwing at Blue Jays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer faces the Blue Jays again today saying it was their fault words were exchanged during his last start in Toronto as they misunderstood his intentions in hitting two batters.

    When Toronto RHP Marco Estrada retaliated by drilling Rays 3B Evan Longoria in the April 16 game, Archer objected from the Rays dugout — "I said, 'For what? Why?' " — and as the umps told him to cool it, Jays LHP Mark Buehrle chirped back....

    Rays starter Chris Archer, who plunked two Blue Jays in his recent outing in Toronto, says he would never throw intentionally at another batter.
  2. Rays-Blue Jays preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Blue Jays

    When/where: 1:10 today; Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $19-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time

    Promotion: Desmond Jennings batting gloves for kids 14 and under

    Probable pitchers...

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses on photo day on February 28, 2015 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  3. Rays Tales: All about Steven Souza Jr.

    The Heater

    Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has been a hit so far, leading the Rays and ranking among the AL's top rookies with four homers and 11 RBIs.

    And a big part of his success is an unusual pregame routine that includes dark flashing goggles that block his vision and a black drawstring bag of ping-pong and tennis-sized foam balls.

    Souza started wearing the glasses, known as Nike Vapor Strobes, after seeing some Nationals teammates with them in 2012, as a method of vision training that improves his focus and concentration. Operating similarly to a strobe light, the liquid crystal lenses flash between transparent and opaque at an adjustable rate....

  4. Rays rally to beat Jays, win fourth straight

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — By the eighth inning Saturday night, the Rays were a bit in disarray, which is to say somewhat normal these days.

    They were trailing the Blue Jays, they already had gone through four pitchers and their bench had been emptied. A starting outfielder, Desmond Jennings, was in the trainers' room dealing with the latest injury. A starting pitcher, Jake Odorizzi, was in cleats as the next man in....

    Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) catches a ball in the outfield in the fifth inning during the MLB baseball game between Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
  5. For starters, Rays vs. Jays, with Teaford up, Dykstra DFA'd

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:43: And the Rays did indeed call up LHP Everett Teaford, to provide coverage today in the event Ramirez doesn't last long, and designated for assignment Dykstra.

    Teaford, who pitched parts of three seasons with Royals, spent last year in Korea and said he didn't know if he would ever get back to the majors. Scheduled to start tonight for Triple-A Durham, he said he is ready and willing to do whatever the Rays need in terms of pitching multiple innings or to face a tough lefty....

    Erasmo Ramirez, who struggled mightily in his first two outings, including a start in Toronto, pitched a clean inning on Sunday.
  6. Rays-Blue Jays Saturday preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Blue Jays

    When/where: 6:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $19-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: Chris Archer bobblehead for all fans

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Erasmo Ramirez (0-1, 21.32)...

  7. For starters, Rays vs. Jays, with Smyly and Loney back

    Blog

    UPDATE, 4:58: Rays RHP Alex Cobb said he felt "great" in his first session off the mound since leaving the March 17 spring game with what was diagnosed as elbow tendinitis. .... LHP Jake McGee played catch with no issues from the stiff back that delayed his rehab assignment, and said he will throw a bullpen session Saturday with a plan if that goes well to pitch in a game early next week for the Stone Crabs then likely go to Triple-A Durham, aiming now for a return in the second week of May. .... The Rays took their team photo before the game. ... Cash said a Saturday starter won't be named until after Friday's game, depending on how the relievers are used. It could be RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Erasmo Ramirez or RHP Steve Geltz. ... RHP Alex Colome is expected to make another rehab start on Sunday, though that could change depending on how Friday's game goes....

  8. Rays shuffle roster, and other Thursday leftovers

    Blog

    The Rays made two post-game roster moves, optioning 1B Allan Dykstra and OF Mikie Mahtook, who had been called up earlier in the day, to Triple-A Durham in advance of activating 1B James Loney and LHP Drew Smyly from the disabled list on Friday.

    Also notable in their 2-1 walkoff win over the Red Sox, which got them back to .500 at 8-8:

    * The Rays bullpen not only posted scoreless work in this series, but 12.2 innings overall without allowing a run, with only 4 hits.

    * CF Kevin Kiermaier had eight putouts in centerfield, one shy of team record for an outfielder.

    * The Rays won for the fourth time while scoring two (or fewer) runs, tying the Tigers for most in the majors.

    * C Rene Rivera recorded his second career walk-off hit. Until the ninth-inning single, he three hits in his previous 31 at-bats.

    * Rivera's single was the first walkoff hit by a Rays catcher since Jose Lobaton's homer into the Rays Touch Tank to win Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS against the Red Sox.

    * Starter Jake Odorizzi logged his third game, in four starts, of working at least six inning while allowing three or fewer hits and one or no runs. No other pitcher has had three like that this year, and his 11 since the start of 2014 are three more than any other pitcher in the majors - Seattle's  Felix Hernandez, San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner and Chicago's Jake Arrieta each have done it eight times.
    ...

  9. Rivera gives Rays walkoff win over Red Sox (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — What made for a crowd at Tropicana Field on Thursday night let out a pretty good roar when the final score from the Lightning's 3-2 overtime playoff win over the Red Wings was posted on the video board.

    A few minutes later they had plenty more to cheer about as Rene Rivera delivered the Rays' first walkoff win of the season, 2-1 over the Red Sox, launching a wet and wild celebration that drifted out beyond second base....

    Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier makes a diving catch on a Mookie Betts fly ball to end the fifth inning in front of 13,834 at Tropicana Field.
  10. Rays-Blue Jays preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Blue Jays

    When/where: 7:10 tonight, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $11-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: LH Drew Smyly (0-0, 0.00)

    jays: RH R.A. Dickey (0-1, 3.26)...

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Pitcher R.A. Dickey #43 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses on photo day on February 28, 2015 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  11. Rays' Riefenhauser goes on disabled list

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Another day, another injury for the Rays. And more roster shuffling.

    LHP C.J. Riefenhauser on Thursday became the mind-boggling 12th Ray placed on the disabled list, leaving them with the strategic disadvantage of a bullpen that is all right-handed.

    That was just the start of things.

    The Rays called up OF Mikie Mahtook to add depth to the bench Thursday, then sent him back to Durham to make room for LHP Drew Smyly to come off the disabled list and make his season debut tonight after recovering from shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him in spring training. ...

    A FUTURE PITCH, too? Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn throws out the ceremonial first pitch, hoping to talk about a stadium site in the future.
  12. At Trop, Tampa Mayor also waiting for chance to talk stadium

    Blog

    Before and after throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, with gusto, on Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn chatted with team president Brian Auld and other Rays officials.

    That level of banter is about all they can do for now, at least until St. Petersburg and the Rays work out a deal for them to discuss stadium sites on the other side of the bridges. Those talks are on hold, likely until after the season, after the St. Pete City Council rejected the last proposal.

    "We still are willing to talk when they get the opportunity,'' Buckhorn said. "We just want the Rays to be able to stay in this area. Until the city of St. Petersburg and the Rays come to an agreement, we truly are in the dugout. But when that day comes, I think the entire community will say, "Okay, let the Rays look, let them make the appropriate decision." The decision may be Pinellas County, it may be Hillsborough. But they've got to have the ability to look.''

    And though Jeff Vinik's master development plan doesn't include a stadium, Buckhorn said he was confident there are good options in downtown Tampa.

    "Oh yea, absolutely,'' he said. "Maybe not the central business district, but in the urban core I think there are sites that will work.''...

  13. For starters, Rays at Red Sox, seeking series win

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:18: Riefenhauser said he had been sore for a few days and when it didn't get better the Rays opted for caution in putting him on the DL. He expects with rest and treatment to be ready when eligible on May 4. ... Cash said it will be tough to not have a lefty in the bullpen but that several of their right-handed relievers are effective against lefty batters. ... LHP Drew Smyly said he will be "anxious" for Friday's start but otherwise treat it as a normal games in terms of strategy and pitch usage. .. Cash acknowledged they have been aggressive by design in their replay challenges and he was undeterred by their 0-for-9 mark thus far....

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, opposed by Clay Buchholz.
  14. A few leftovers from Rays 7-5 win over Red Sox

    Blog

    A few leftovers from the Rays 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Red Sox on Wednesday:

    * In rallying from the 5-1 deficit, the Rays logged their largest comeback win since May 24, 2014 vs Boston when they fell behind 5-0 in the first and won 6-5 in 15 innings. It their first comeback win of the 2015 season.

    * Steven Souza Jr.'s solo homer in the 1st was the Rays 8th HR hit by a rookie, tying the franchise record for April. Souza also set an individual record, surpassing Evan Longoria. Souza leads the Rays with 4 homers and 11 RBIs, hitting .364/.400/.818 with 4 HR and 9 RBI in his last 8 games. He is tied with Toronto's Devon Travis for most homers among major league rookies. Souza left in the sixth inning due to a right forearm cramp but said he felt fine after the game and expected to play Thursday.

    * The seven runs were the Rays most in a home game since Aug 30, 2014 vs. BOS. It was just their second home win of the season.
     
    * Manager Kevin Cash initiated a double-replay challenge during a play in the eighth. Officially, Cash challenged an out call at 1B in the 8th, which was confirmed following a 2:09 delay, and the umpires agreed to review the call at third base. So technically, Cash dropped to 0-for-9 in challenges, plus he has not won two umpire-initiated challenges.

    * The first 6 batters reached in the sixth inning (5 singles, 1 walk) as the Rays scored 4 runs, matching their 2nd-highest scoring inning of the season, behind the 7-run 7th on April 10 in Miami. It was also the third time they batted around this season.

    * Evan Longoria snapped an 0-for-12 with a 1B in the sixth on a 3-0 count. It was his 1st hit on a 3-0 count since Sep 25, 2012 at BOS.

    * Desmond Jennings' single to load the bases snapped the team 0-for-17 stretch with RISP.

    * INF Logan Forsythe drew his 3rd bases-loaded walk of the season, most in the majors, and the MLB high 7th for the Rays. The next closest team are the Red Sox, with three. Forsythe never had one out in 84 career walks from 2011-14.

    * Pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer had a game-tying, 2-run single on an 0-2 pitch. It was the second time this year a Rays pinch-hitter delivered 2 RBI on an 0-2 pitch (Tim Beckham HR, April 16 at TOR). Before this year, it had happened only once in Rays history: Al Martin (3-run homer) on July 20, 2003 vs. TEX.

    * INF/OF Jake Elmore became the 11th player in Rays history to hit a home run in his first at-bat with the team. The last was Ryan Roberts on July 25, 2012, at BAL. Others include manager Kevin Cash in 2005.

    * RHP Steve Geltz in eight appearances has made his first pro start, recorded his first win and on Wednesday got his first save. He is the fourth Ray to record a save this season (Boxberger, Jepsen, Frieri), tied with the Rockies for most in the majors.
    ...

  15. Rays rally to beat Red Sox (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe, the Rays can hope, this will be the start of something, the chilly bats swung by the key players in the middle of their order warming up.

    At least, it was the end of something, their four-game losing streak over with a 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night.

    "Obviously a big win; we needed that one," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's been a little bit of a grind the last couple days, and it could've been another grind today. A credit to what they did."...

    Logan Forsythe hurdles Mike Napoli on a Pablo Sandoval fielder’s choice ground ball during the second. Forsythe later has a key bases-loaded walk.