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, Red Sox playing surprisingly meaningless series

    The Heater

    BOSTON — Having battled in the playoffs last year for the second time, and dramatically in several other Septembers, the Rays and Red Sox meet this week in what would have seemed six months ago to be the most unlikely scenario: with nothing at stake.

    The Red Sox, a year after winning the World Series, are guaranteed to finish last in the American League East. The Rays, a popular pick to win the World Series this season, are most likely to finish fourth and with a losing record....

    With nothing at stake for the Rays, Alex Cobb faces the Red Sox looking to push himself at the end of the season.
  2. Rays: Name coincidence between Boxberger baby, Maddon restaurant

    The Heater

    Rays at Red Sox

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Fenway Park, Boston

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Cobb (9-8, 2.82)

    RED SOX: RH Clay Buchholz (8-9, 5.29)

    On Cobb: Lost to Yankees in last start, snapping streak of 12 starts allowing two or fewer runs. Leads majors with 1.51 ERA post All-Star break. Is 2-3, 3.80 in eight starts vs. Sox....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait at Charlotte Sports Park during photo day on February 26, 2014 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  3. Rays' young, developing rotation cause for 2015 optimism

    The Heater

    BOSTON — Sitting on the bench watching Alex Colome's solid start against the Yankees last week — which was a few days after Nathan Karns' even more impressive Rays debut — Drew Smyly turned to Alex Cobb in amazement with a question:

    " 'Where do you get all these guys that can go seven shutout innings?' '' Cobb relayed. "I was like, 'The minor leagues. That's what we do. You didn't have that (in Detroit)?' And he's like, 'No, this is very abnormal.' ''...

    Drew Smyly, dazzled by the Rays’ collection of young pitchers, is a key component at age 25.
  4. Rays-Red Sox preview

    Sports

    UP NEXT

    at Red Sox

    Tonight-Thursday

    What's new: Having dealt a number of veterans and locked up last place in the AL East, the Red Sox are looking as much into the future as they can, playing recently signed Cuban OF Rusney Castillo, OF/INF Mookie Betts, INF Xander Bogaerts (who left Sunday's game with neck stiffness) and C Christian Vazquez regularly. Though 2B Dustin Pedoria is shut down after left thumb/wrist surgery, DH David Ortiz is still going strong with 35 homers and 104 RBIs. OF Yeonis Cespedes, acquired from Oakland, has 22 and 97 for the season....

  5. Rays rookie Nathan Karns unfazed by poor results

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rookie RHP Nathan Karns didn't think he pitched much differently — or much worse — on Sunday than he did in his dazzling Rays debut in Toronto on Sept. 12.

    But the difference in results was dramatic as he threw seven two-hit, shutout innings against the Blue Jays but allowed six runs, including three home runs, in five-plus innings here.

    "At times I missed my spots, and they took advantage of that," Karns said. "These hitters got to a couple of my pitches, they jumped out early in the second inning (scoring four on two homers), but after that, I felt fine. In the sixth inning I tried to throw a curveball first pitch and (Avisail Garcia) hit it out. Other than that, I was pretty happy. I had bad luck, home run to lead off the second, hit a guy. I get a ground ball; we had the shift on. It was one of those things."...

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns (51) on the mound against the Chicago White Sox Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.
  6. Rays: Team teases undersized relievers, Disney style

    The Heater

    Numbers of the day

    17,858

    Rays average attendance, lowest in majors.

    1,446,464

    Rays total attendance, lowest since 2007.

    Home boys

    A year-by-year look at the Rays' home record:

    Year W-L

    1998 33-48

    1999 33-48

    2000 36-44

    2001 37-44

    2002 30-51

    2003 36-45

    2004 41-39...

  7. Rays routed by White Sox in season home finale

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The cause of the Rays' unexpected failures at Tropicana Field this season, capped by Sunday's 10-5 loss to the White Sox, will be reviewed, hypothesized and analyzed over the next several weeks in an attempt to decipher what went wrong and why.

    But the effect of the 36-45 record under the slanted roof that was their worst since the dark (green) days of the Devil Rays was obvious — especially since they have a winning record on the road — in leading to their overall 75-81 disappointment of a season....

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) strikes out in the fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014.
  8. For starters, Rays vs. White Sox, in the home finale

    Blog

    UPDATE, 12:20: Sean Rodriguez has rejoined the team following the death of his grandmother and is in the lineup at DH. ... OF Desmond Jennings said the sore left knee that has sidelined him for the final month of the season is "feeling better" but not enough yet to play so he won't be going on the final road trip to Boston and Cleveland.

    Rays lineup:
    Zobrist cf
    Guyer lf
    Longoria 3b
    Myers rf
    Forsythe 2b
    Escobar ss
    Loney 1b
    Rodriguez dh
    Casali c
    Karns p...

    Nathan Karns, impressive in his Rays debut, makes his second and last start today.
  9. Rays beat White Sox to begin final stretch

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There are still some things Rays manager Joe Maddon wants to see over the final week of the season, such as the way Chris Archer pitched and newcomer Nick Franklin homered in the 3-1 win over the White Sox on Saturday.

    And he'd be quite thrilled if the Rays (75-80) were to win their remaining seven games and extend their streak of winning seasons to seven. Or even six to finish at .500, the first team to do so after being 18 games under....

    Chris Archer tips his cap as he leaves during the seventh inning of a strong outing that earns him his 10th win.
  10. Rays: Alex Cobb takes ailing child on shopping spree

    The Heater

    Rays vs. White Sox

    When/where: 1:40 today; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $18-275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Raymond train to kids 14 and under.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RHP Nathan Karns (1-0, 0.00)...

    DUNEDIN, FL - MARCH 12: Nathan Karns #51 of the Tampa Bay Rays warms up prior to the start of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on March 12, 2014 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
  11. Rays' Matt Joyce expecting to be traded this offseason

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa-born OF Matt Joyce takes the field today figuring it "most likely" will be his last game at the Trop as a Ray.

    Joyce figures that his arbitration-driven salary increase for next season to around $5 million likely will make him too expensive for the Rays to keep, and thus likely to be traded this winter.

    "I think there's a good chance, just knowing the organization and how they operate and how many young guys that they have in the outfield and coming up through the system," Joyce, 30, said....

    Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Matt Joyce (20) singles in the first inning of the Tampa Bay Rays against the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
  12. A peek ahead at 2015 Tampa Bay Rays

    The Heater

    For parts of this season, the Rays looked like a mess, most pointedly during the late May/early June 1-14 stretch that manager Joe Maddon repeatedly refers to as the primary reason they are playing meaningless games over the final week of the season for the first time since 2009. So as they leave the Trop field today for the last time this season, the question is what they will look like when they return April 6 to open the 2015 season. Most likely, much the same, as almost the entire squad is under contract or control. But there always are some changes. And it could be particularly interesting this offseason as trades seem the most likely avenue as they seek to reduce payroll while adding a bat to boost an offense that might finish last in the American League in runs....

  13. For starters, Rays vs. White Sox, trying to salvage something

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:12: Maddon said waking up today officially eliminated reinforced how much he doesn't like it, and has already started thinking about what they can do differently next year. ... RHP Brad Boxberger (baby) is expected back Sunday, INF/OF Sean Rodriguez (whose grandmother died)  has not told the team when he will be back.

    Rays lineup:
    Zobrist lf
    DeJesus dh
    Longoria 3b
    Loney 1b
    Franklin 2b
    Joyce rf
    Escobar ss
    Kiermaier cf
    Hanigan c
    Archer p
    ...

  14. Zobrist wins MVP award now named for Zimmer

    Blog

    The Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association announced the winners of its annual awards today, and that its MVP award had been named the Don Zimmer MVP award, in honor of the team's former senior advisor.

    INF/OF Ben Zobrist was chosen the winner for the second time, also in 2009.

    Zobrist finished first in the voting with 22 points, just ahead of LHP Jake McGee (20) and 3B  Evan Longoria (19)....

  15. Rays, Lightning ranked most affordable by ESPN

    Blog

    The Rays and Lightning are tops in their sports in terms of affordability of tickets, parking and concession in ESPN The Magazine's new Ultimate Rankings of the 122 teams in MLB and the NFL, NHL and NBA.

    The overall rankings, part subjective, part formulaic, include quality of coaching, ownership and players; stadium experience and fan relations; win and title possibilties. The Lighting are sixth, the Rays 35th and the Bucs 84th. To see the full chart, click here....