Make us your home page

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. No surprises for Kevin Cash in first game as Rays manager

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Cash managed a game Thursday.

    And that in itself was news, because it was his first at any level.

    But, after all the attention and all the questions before and after the Rays' 3-2 spring-opening loss to the Orioles, it really wasn't newsworthy.

    "Kind of as anticipated," Cash said.

    He allowed himself one pause to take it all in as he strolled from the Rays clubhouse toward the dugout — "The walk in from rightfield was probably that moment" — though he joked later that he was unimpeded because no one knew who he was....

    Staff ace Alex Cobb, left, has a conversation with Kevin Cash on the day of his first game as Rays manager.
  2. Video report: Cash's first game a 3-2 loss


    Our video report from the Rays spring opening 3-2 loss to Baltimore in Kevin Cash's first game as manager.

  3. For openers, Rays vs. Orioles


    UPDATE, 9:37: Cash said he is excited for his first game as manager and not nervous - yet anyway. He has 12-14 relatives coming, said he felt embarassed to ask for that many tickets. ... There is a locker and No. 84 jersey for Miller, who was to take a physical this morning,


    UPDATE, 8:32: Here is the Orioles lineup:
    DeAza rf
    Cabrera 2b
    Clevenger c
    Snider lf
    Paredes 3b
    Urrutia dh
    Parmalee 1b
    Lough cf
    Flaherty ss
    Chen p...

    Rays manager Kevin Cash, speaking to his father, Mike.
  4. Rays: Cobb finds stray dog's owner

    The Heater

    Dog day afternoon

    Rays RHP Alex Cobb found some info about the stray dog he saved Monday, including his name, Oscar. Also, via the embedded chip, that the original owner is a Fort Myers woman, though she had no interest in the 2-year-old dog, claiming to have given him to someone she would try to reach. Cobb is hoping to return the dog but acknowledged that he and his bulldog, Axel, are growing attached to the newcomer that reminds him of Baxter from the Anchorman movies. "We're going to hang on to it for a while," he said. "That's dangerous, though, because his personality is starting to grow on me." Another possibility is to make Oscar a team dog, such as the Brewers did — to much publicity — last spring....

  5. Evan Longoria embraces No. 4 spot in Rays order

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Certain segments of the Rays' lineup for today's spring opener are purely for exhibition and experimental purposes.

    But the middle looks to be the real deal.

    3B Evan Longoria will hit fourth, with INF Asdrubal Cabrera in front of him and 1B James Loney behind him, and that appears to be the plan for the regular season, albeit with OF Desmond Jennings fifth at times....

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who in the past has preferred to bat third, says he’s on board with the plan to bat him fourth: “They feel that the way our lineup shapes up that that’s the best way, and I agree with that.”
  6. Analysis: Alex Cobb's opening day start puts him atop Rays' hill (w/video)

    The Heater


    Naming Alex Cobb the opening day starter, as the Rays did Wednesday, was an obvious decision, the only surprise being that it came this early in the spring, though that's for good reason, too.

    Cobb is the Rays' best starter. He is the oldest at 27 and has the most experience and time in the majors. He is best positioned, emotionally and intellectually, to assume the legacy of leadership from David Price and James Shields and is the most respected by others in the clubhouse and on the staff to do so....

    The Rays today named Alex Cobb their opening day starting pitcher.  [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  7. 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:



  8. 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 found and brought home.
  9. 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....

  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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."...

  13. 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....

    Ernesto Frieri, a solid closer for the Angels over two seasons, says he fell off in 2014 after a well-meaning spring adjustment.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.