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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' annual bullpen rebuilding process is under way

    The Heater

    Part of the Rays' organizational philosophy is that bullpens are fungible, essentially made to be rebuilt each season. That process is obviously under way, as they have dropped four more relievers from last year's crew that made an American League-most 530 appearances.

    In trading LHP C.J. Riefenhauser (to Seattle) and RHP Kirby Yates (to Cleveland, after being designated for assignment), the Rays lost some flexibility, two pitchers who had time in the majors without much success but had options to be shuttled to the minors....

    Incumbent closer Brad Boxberger is set in the Rays’ relief corps, unless they get a good-enough trade offer.
  2. Rays release 2016 spring training schedule

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays aren't sure where they will wrap up spring training, given the potential for a late-March trip to Cuba, but they will start exhibition play March 2 in Port Charlotte against new manager Dusty Baker's Nationals.

    The Rays on Friday released their 29-game spring schedule that, subject to change, includes 15 games at the Charlotte Sports Park and three road games in the Tampa Bay area — at Dunedin (Blue Jays, March 13, split squad); Clearwater (Phillies, March 17); and Tampa (Yankees, March 24)....

  3. Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey gets extension


    Pitching coach Jim Hickey has agreed to a new three-year deal that will keep him with the Rays through 2018, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    Hickey, 54, has been with the Rays since 2007 and is considered one of the top pitching coaches in the majors as Tampa Bay has ranked among the league's best in most pitching categories during that span. He would be a hot commodity among other teams if the Rays let him become a free agent. ...

  4. Royals' Wade Davis, Ben Zobrist among local connections in World Series

    The Heater

    Ex-Rays' presence strong on Royals

    Two of the more prominent faces on the Royals during the World Series will be familiar to Rays fans — RHP Wade Davis and 2B Ben Zobrist.

    Davis, now the Royals' lights-out closer, came up with the Rays and was traded to the Royals in December 2012 along with RHP James Shields for a package headlined by OF Wil Myers (since traded) and RHP Jake Odorizzi....

  5. Adjusted demeanor helps Terry Collins manage Mets to World Series

    The Heater

    Terry Collins thought he knew how to be a good major-league manager in his first two stints, with an overall winning record for six seasons with the Astros and Angels as proof. • But his explosive and dictatorial means resulted in an ugly end, an Anaheim player mutiny and fractured clubhouse forcing Collins to resign with a month left in the 1999 season. • He would spend the next 11 years, including one on the Devil Rays coaching staff, working in assorted roles, hoping that somebody would somehow give him another chance to manage in the majors. • When Collins finally got it, hired by the Mets in November 2010, he felt the need to say by way of introduction, "I'm not the evil devil that a lot of people have made me out to be." • The Collins who tonight will lead the Mets into their first World Series in 15 years, and his first ever, is indeed a different manager, and a different man: mellower, though still feisty and energetic at age 66, with a changed perspective and philosophy. • "When I first came here, one of the things that I absolutely worked on every single day was to talk to every player on the team," Collins said. • "And the other thing that I do here is my players have a say in stuff. They have a say in the rules. They have a say in dress codes. I want them to be a part of this whole thing. … That's being a better communicator. Where years ago I wrote the rules, I put down the policies, I don't do that anymore....

  6. Video: Cobb on being named Rays opening day starter


    Pitcher Alex Cobb on being named the Rays' starter for the April 6 season opener against Baltimore at the Trop:



  7. UPDATED: Rays starter Alex Cobb earns a save — of this stray dog


    UPDATED, 9:15 a.m. WEDNESDAY:  Cobb found out through an embedded chip that the dog is named Oscar and tracked down the original owner, but the Fort Myers woman told Cobb she had given the now 2-year-old dog to someone else, and would try to reach them.

    Meanwhile, Cobb, and his bulldog, Axel, are growing attached to the newcomer he said reminds him of Baxter from the Anchorman movies. "We're going to hang on to it for a while,'' Cobb said. "That's dangerous, though, because his personality is starting to grow on me.''...

    Here is the stray dog Alex Cobb brought home.
  8. Live from Port Charlotte: 1st spring lineup has Longoria 4th


    In addition to announcing the order of the pitching rotation with Alex Cobb as the opening day starter, Rays manager Kevin Cash also unveiled the batting order for Thursday's exhibition opener.

    And for starters, the middle of their batting order has Asdrubal Cabrera third, Evan Longoria fourth and James Loney fifth. Obviously it's only the first spring game, and all the projected starters are not in there, including OF Steven Souza Jr., but it's still interesting for the first glance at what Cash and Co. are thinking....

  9. Alex Cobb named Rays' Opening Day starting pitcher


    The Rays named RHP Alex Cobb their opening day starter.

    Cobb will be followed in the rotation by RHP Chris Archer and LHP Drew Smyly in the April 6-8 opening series vs. Baltimore at the Trop. RHP Jake Odorizzi will be next, starting the opening game of the April 10-12 weekend series; the Rays have to determine who will win the fifth starter's spot.

    Cobb said his initial reaction was "Joy.''...

    Rays starter Alex Cobb throws live batting practice during the first full-squad workout of spring training last week in Port Charlotte.
  10. Rays' John Jaso looks good in outfield drills

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays officials didn't know what to expect when they raised the idea of putting DH John Jaso, who has spent most of his career as a catcher, in the outfield. And, to be honest, neither did Jaso.

    But, after a week of slow-paced drills, the experiment has gone better than anyone could have expected.

    "He's looked really good," manager Kevin Cash said. "He was reading balls off the bat (in batting practice) and he looked great, and (Monday) the outfielders did their first kind of light throwing, and every ball he threw was right on the line. I think from speaking with him, he's been comfortable with it....

    John Jaso, expected to mostly DH against righties, is showing surprising skills in outfield drills.
  11. Rays: Wide-open field for annual charity golf event

    The Heater

    Taking their swings

    The Rays will leave the fields early today to hit the fairways as all 40-man rostered players and staff will take part in the team's annual charity golf tournament at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. With David Price traded and Jake McGee sidelined, the field seems wide open, with C Curt Casali, RHP Matt Andriese and C Rene Rivera considered among the Rays' best, though they compete with teams of corporate and community partners. "Since David's not here I think I have a good chance to win it," Casali said. "I'm looking forward to having some fun out there."...

  12. Reliever Ernesto Frieri seeks revival under Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — His delivery in need of repair, his reputation as a dominant late-inning reliever tattered after a brutal 2014 season, Ernesto Frieri had a pretty good idea of how to get right.

    Citing turnarounds made by Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit and others before him, Frieri seized on the opportunity to sign with the Rays and become the next project for Jim Hickey's Career Revival Program....

    It was a rough 2014 for Ernesto Frieri, who posted a 7.34 ERA with the Angels and Pirates and was released in September.
  13. Live from Port Charlotte: Final day of live BP, games in sight


    UPDATE, 2:05: Foley was feeling lightheaded and dehydrated so he went down on one knee in the outfield, which is what drew attention. He was taken in by the trainers and checked out and is fine, manager Kevin Cash said.

    Among the pitchers who impressed Cash today were relievers Jeff Beliveau, Brandon Gomes and Kirby Yates.

    "I think everyone is ready to get going,'' Cash said....

    Ernesto Frieri throws live batting practice today in Port Charlotte.
  14. Rays' Alex Cobb eager to pitch in competitive games

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — RHP Alex Cobb can't wait to see the Pirates on Saturday afternoon.

    It's nothing personal, just a matter of the Rays' top starter, after throwing bullpen sessions for months and batting practice for two days, itching to get back in a competitive environment.

    "I'm ready to go," Cobb said after Monday's session. "I'm over throwing bullpens, I'm over throwing live BP, where most of the guys aren't even swinging. I'm just ready to compete, try to get some real outs, have some real fielders. That's the only time you get your real feedback. And you even get a little bit of adrenaline going during spring training. You can work off that, too."...

    Alex Cobb is tired of throwing bullpen sessions and batting practice and wants to get into a game.
  15. Rays: Beckham blast breaks Smyly's windshield

    The Heater

    Hit of the day

    INF Tim Beckham provided the "highlight" of the day, a batting practice blast that shattered the windshield of LHP Drew Smyly's car, which was parked beyond the leftfield fence. After joking that pitching coach Jim Hickey was to blame for grooving the pitch, Beckham said he would make good. "I hope BMW covers that," Beckham said. "If not, meal money will." Smyly was scrambling to see if he could get it repaired ASAP, musing, "I'll find a new spot tomorrow."...

    Tampa Bay Rays infielder Tim Beckham's hit finds pitcher Drew Smyly's windshield in the players lot during Rays Spring Training camp at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, March 2, 2015.