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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 minor-league team hosting "A-Rod Juice Box Night!"


    Alex Rodriguez still gets booed in most stadiums, but the novelty of his return to the Yankees from a year-long suspension seems to have worn off.

    But not in Port Charlotte, where the Rays advanced Class A affiliate is promoting tonight's game against the Tampa Yankees as "A-Rod Juice Box Night!"

    Per the team web site, the first 500 fans get a free juice box (which they can drink or donate to the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition) and any fans bringing A-Rod T-shirts, hats or other merchandise to be donated to the Salvation Army can get a free ticket.

    In a photo illustration on the team's Twitter and Facebook pages, a woman is drinking from a box with this label (and, yes, with the wrong spelling of effects):

    The Sports Drink
    100 % Juiced
    Side Affects include: tainted records, inflated ego, omission from the Hall of Fame, and more!...

    This is the photo illustration on the Stone Crabs Twitter feed.
  2. Rays fail to support Odorizzi, fall to Braves (w/video)

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — The two runs Rays starter Jake Odorizzi allowed over an overall solid six innings against the Braves on Wednesday night didn't seem like much.

    But given Tampa Bay's inability to score more than one despite a series of opportunities against a first-time starter, the two turned out to be too much to overcome as the Rays headed home stung by a 2-1 loss.

    "It's tough to win ball games when you're leaving that many guys on and only getting one run," manager Kevin Cash said....

    Jake Odorizzi walks two, his first walks in five starts, and fails to pitch into the seventh for the first time in nine.
  3. Rays-Athletics preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. A's

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

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

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Colome (2-1, 6.05)

    A'S: RH Jesse Chavez (1-3, 2.63)...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Pitcher Alex Colome #37 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)
  4. Injury to keep ex-Ray Ben Zobrist from returning to Trop

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — After being traded unexpectedly to the A's in January, Ben Zobrist, one of the most popular and longest-serving Rays players in franchise history, shared his heartfelt goodbyes in an ad that ran in the Tampa Bay Times.

    For months, he had been looking forward to seeing many of his friends and fans at the Trop during the A's four-game series that starts tonight. Even after a minor left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery in late April, Zobrist was holding out hope for an enjoyable return....

  5. The Athletics' Rays connection

    The Heater

    The Oakland RAyS

    Though down from last year, the A's still have a Rays look to their roster, with six former members of the Tampa Bay organization:

    . RHP Jesse Chavez

    Property of Rays in November to December 2009, then traded to Braves for Rafael Soriano.

    . OF Sam Fuld

    Played for Rays 2011-13, left as free agent.

    . RHP Jesse Hahn

    Drafted by Rays in 2010, traded in January 2014 to Padres, debuted in June '14....

  6. For starters, Rays at Braves, at end of the road


    UPDATE, 5:45: Cash said Matt Moore threw his bullpen session today and it went well, but they will wait for tomorrow to talk with him and decide whether he next throws another simulated game or makes a start in extended spring training, the final step before starting a rehab assignment. .... Cash said the Rays have some info on Braves starter Williams Perez from their Triple-A staff as he faced Durham earlier while with Gwinnett. ... RHP Alex Colome was not in the clubhouse, and apparently flew home ahead of the team to be rested for his Thursday start. ... There was no update on LHP Drew Smyly, who has decided to attempt to pitch again this season after a program of a cortisone shot/rest/rehab following the diagnosis of a torn labrum....

    Jake Odorizzi has emerged as the Rays' most consistent starter, working into the seventh inning in all eight of his starts.
  7. Rays-Braves preview

    The Heater

    Rays at Braves

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Turner Field, Atlanta

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 2.36)

    BRAVES: RH Williams Perez (0-0, 15.43)

    On Odorizzi: Has pitched into seventh in all 8 starts, most in majors. Has not issued a walk in a team record-tying four starts spanning 26 innings. Has not faced Braves....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo on photo day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2015 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  8. Rays' Drew Smyly to try to rehab torn labrum

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — LHP Drew Smyly has decided to try to pitch again this season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

    Smyly, 25, had been considering surgery that would sideline him for the rest of this season and possibly into 2016, but after consultation with Dr. Keith Meister in Texas he decided to try a program that includes a cortisone injection (which he already received), rest and rehab, the Tampa Bay Times has learned. Best-case scenario would be for him to rejoin the rotation sometime in August....

    Drew Smyly will attempt rest and rehab on his torn labrum.
  9. Erasmo Ramirez, bullpen step up as Rays beat Braves (w/video)

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — Erasmo Ramirez proved he could make another effective start, working five solid innings in a 5-3 Rays win over the Braves on Tuesday. The hitters showed they could carry over momentum from Sunday's outburst in Minnesota as the Rays reached the one-fourth point of the season 22-18 and tied for first place.

    Then came the most interesting — and going forward, potentially the most important — part of the night, as manager Kevin Cash for the first time could deploy his trio of late-inning relievers....

    Brad Boxberger, right, gets a high-five from Logan Forsythe after picking up his 11th straight save for the Rays, finishing off a dominant performance by the bullpen.
  10. Rays' Evan Longoria teams with New Balance on new sneaker

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — Rays third baseman Evan Longoria has created plenty of lasting memories on the field and at the plate, topped by his Game 162 wild-card clinching home run.

    Now he has helped create a sneaker being launched this month, the Evan Longoria x New Balance 530, which features several design elements he suggested. Photos were released Tuesday.

    "I think it turned out great," Longoria said. "It was really fun to do. It was a year-and-a-half communicating with them. It was cool to be a part of, and something that I was honored that they even let me do."...

  11. Smyly will try to pitch again for Rays this season


    Rays LHP Drew Smyly has apparently opted to try to pitch again this season after rest and rehab for the torn labrum in his left shoulder.

    Smyly had been deciding been season-ending surgery and a program that includes an injection of cortisone, rest and rehab.

    Manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday they were "optimistic" and hearing good things, which would indicate Smyly was opting to try and come back....

    Drew Smyly has apparently opted to try to pitch again this season after rest and rehab for the torn labrum in his left shoulder.
  12. New Balance unveils Longoria 530 x model sneaker


    The collaboration between Rays 3B Evan Longoria and New Balance has taken form, with the formal unveiling of the Evan Longoria x New Balance 530 sneakerline that will be launched May 30.

    Longoria has input in the design, which includes some baseball-style touches, including his No. 3 being highlighted.

    "I think it turned out great,'' Longoria said. "It was really fun to do. It was a year-and-a-half communicating with them. It was cool to be a part of, and something that I was honored that they even let me do.''...

    Rays 3B Evan Longoria and the New Balance sneaker with his name.
  13. For starters, Rays at Braves in the ATL


    UPDATE, 5:55: Cash said their hope is for Ramirez to pitch similarly to his last outing vs. the Yankees. ... Cash said he understands this is a special time for Beckham, but his best shot to contribute is likely to be pinch-hitting off the bench.

    Braves lineup, without Jonny Gomes, who is a threat to pinch-hit vs. LHPs:
    Peterson 2b
    Ciriaco 3b
    Freeman 1b
    Markakis rf
    Cunningham lf
    Pierzynski c
    Simmons ss
    Maybin cf
    Foltynewicz p...

    Turner Field in Atlanta, where the Rays will play the Braves the next two nights.
  14. Rays-Braves preview

    The Heater

    Rays at Braves

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Turner Field, Atlanta

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Erasmo Ramirez (1-1, 6.66)

    BRAVES: RH Mike Foltynewicz (2-0, 4.24)

    On Ramirez: Starting tonight as Rays opted to give RHP Nathan Karns a couple of extra days rest. Coming off solid start vs. Yankees (5 IP, 1 H). Lasted only 3 innings in a 2014 start for Mariners vs. Braves....

    LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 02:  Mike Foltynewicz #48 of the Atlanta Braves poses for a portrait on March 2, 2015 at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  15. For Rays' Tim Beckham, playing at Turner Field fulfills dream

    The Heater

    ATLANTA — Growing up a half-hour or so from downtown Atlanta, Tim Beckham saw Turner Field as a shrine, relishing the opportunities to attend games there, watching countless times on TV, his mind always racing ahead.

    "One day I might be playing in this stadium," he said. "I dreamed about playing in this stadium. There's a lot of history in the Braves stadium. I witnessed a lot of history there. It's an honor to play at Turner Field."...

    After an impressive start to his first extended big-league opportunity, Tim Beckham has struggled, just 4-for-his-last-37, though tied for the second-most homers (4) and RBIs (15) on the team. [AP photo]