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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. Tim Beckham demotion tough but necessary, Rays manager says

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As difficult of a conversation as it was, manager Kevin Cash said the Rays had to send down INF Tim Beckham in order to add an extra arm to a bullpen that has been the most heavily used in the majors.

    "We had to make the move simply because we have to do what's best for the team, and innings are what's important right now," Cash said. "Our bullpen is a little gassed, they've been worked very hard and it made the most sense."...

    Tim Beckham is among the team leaders with five homers and 16 RBIs but was batting only .224.
  2. Rays-A's preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. A's

    When/where: 1:10 today; Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $13-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Postgame concert by Cody Simpson, free with game ticket

    Probable pitchers...

    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during the spring training photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on February 22, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sonny Gray
  3. Rays Tales: Fully healthy bullpen could be dominant

    The Heater

    A hefty portion of the Rays' success through the first quarter of the season has been the impressive heavy lifting done by their relievers. And now with the return of LHP Jake McGee from the disabled list, the bullpen could have even more of an impact.

    With RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Kevin Jepsen and McGee, the team has a dominating trio capable of dramatically shortening games, akin to what the Royals did last year with RHPs Wade Davis (ex-Ray), Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland....

    Kevin Jepsen
  4. Romero optioned back to Durham, another pitching coming

    Blog

    After working 3 innings to save the bullpen from further use, LHP Enny Romero was optioned back to Triple-A Durham after the game.

    Another pitcher will be called up for Sunday's game to add depth as the Rays have RHP Erasmo Ramirez starting.

    The primary options would appear to be RHP Jose Dominguez and RHP Preston Guilmet. Two other candidates, Matt Andriese and Andrew Bellatti, are not yet eligible since it hasn't been 10 days since they were last sent down....

  5. Rays bullpen, defense falter, offense snoozes in loss to A's

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Xavier Cedeno has been among the players who have unexpectedly starred as the Rays have battled their way through a bevy of injuries to the top of the American League East standings.

    Picked up from the Dodgers for cash in late April after being ditched by the Nationals when the Rays had two lefty relievers hurt, Cedeno set down just about every tough lefty he faced, running off a string of 12 scoreless appearances....

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 23:  Mark Canha #20 of the Oakland Athletics slides safely home off an error by catcher Rene Rivera #44 of the Tampa Bay Rays to score following a single by Sam Fuld #23 during the sixth inning of a game on May 23, 2015 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) 538580909
  6. Rays crumble in 5-0 loss to A's

    Blog

         Even the best bullpens in the game are going to have to their off-days, and the Rays had one Saturday.
       Xavier Cedeno, who had been impressive and nearly flawless since joining the Rays in late April, gave up a pair of run-scoring singles in the sixth inning, leading to a 5-0 loss to the Athletics.
         The Rays offense didn't do much to help, managing only three hits in six innings against starter Kendall Graveman and six  total. And the defense was sloppy, making two errors on one play and several misplays.
        The result dropped the Rays to 24-20 but kept them atop the American League East by 1 1/2 games.
            Rays starter Nathan Karns battled through the first five innings, giving up six hits but no runs. He ran into more trouble, however, in the sixth, allowing a leadoff single and then a one-out walk. He struck out Josh Phegley on his 99th pitch of the day, but manager Kevin Cash decided that was enough.
       He opted for lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno, who has been extremely reliable, unscored on in 12 appearances since being acquired in late April from the Dodgers for cash.
      But Cedeno allowed a single to Eric Sogard, scoring Josh Reddick with the game's first run. Then Cedeno walked Mark Canha to load the bases. And then he allowed a single to former Ray Sam Fuld, who had 4 hits in his previous 54 at-bats.
        Two A's scored on the hit, and to make it worse, the Rays made two errors on the play, Kevin Kiermaier botching the ball and then catcher Rene Rivera dropping the throw home, resulting in a third run, and a 4-0 lead.
       Trying to rest their over-worked bullpen, the Rays turned to lefty Enny Romero, just called up Saturday, to work the final three innings. He got the job done, though it wasn't pretty as he walked four straight during a 36-pitch eighth inning.
       The teams wrap up their four-game series at 1:10 Sunday, with Tampa Bay's Erasmo Ramirez facing Oakland ace Sonny Gray.

    ...

  7. For starters, Rays vs. A's, looking to be as easy as 1-2-3

    Blog

    UPDATE, 2:08: Cash said sending down Beckham was a very tough conversation and that he's proven he is a big league player, but the priority was adding a bullpen arm  to provide some protection. Cash said they could go back to carrying an extra bench player once/if the bullpen gets some rest. ... Cash said he just wanted to get Longoria off his feet with the DH day,  but that it is still a tough sell: "We play cribbage for it.'' ... Romero said he had to get up at 3 a.m. to get a flight from Scranton - where Triple-A Durham was playing - to connect in Charlotte and get to Tampa
    ...

  8. Tim Beckham sent down, Enny Romero to be called up

    Blog

    Rookie INF Tim Beckham hit his fifth homer, and a 453-foot blast at that, but he was sent down to Triple-A Durham after Friday's game so the Rays could add an arm to their bullpen.

    LHP Enny Romero, who began the season on the disabled list at Durham with a back strain, will be recalled to give the Rays a long reliever after they had to use the bullpen heavily on Friday. 

    Beckham, the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, initially made the most of his somewhat unexpected big-league opportunity, but he had just four hits over his last 38 bats, stretching back to late April, before going 2-for-4 on Friday....

  9. Rays work with Souza to cut down strikeouts, complaints (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie OF Steven Souza Jr. is assembling quite a fan club.

    After Friday's game Souza was leading the majors with 63 strikeouts, putting him on pace for what would be a record-smashing 239 for the season. He has three four-strikeout games.

    But given that Souza, 26, is also the Rays top home-run threat, hitting coach Derek Shelton said there isn't much they can do as he adapts to playing regularly in the majors for the first time....

    Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after striking out in the first inning of the game between the Oakland Athletics at the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, May 22, 2015.
  10. Rays beat Kazmir, A's (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir share some special memories, teammates on the 2008 Rays team that made the stunningly unexpected run to the World Series.

    They've crossed paths a few times since, Kazmir winning one of three 2010 starts against the Rays after being traded to the Angels, and Longoria not doing much, rapping one hit in eight at-bats, singling in one run....

    Steven Souza Jr., left, congratulates Evan Longoria after Longoria hits a three-run homer off former Rays teammate Scott Kazmir.
  11. Rays-Athletics Saturday preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. A's

    When/where: 4:10 today, Tropicana Field.

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

    Tickets: $13-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Postgame concert by The Jacksons, free with game ticket.

    Probable pitchers...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Nathan Karns #51 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)
  12. Rays minor-league team cancels promotion that jabs Alex Rodriguez

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — No asterisk was needed for this one.

    The advanced Class A Stone Crabs canceled, then apologized for a planned "A-Rod Juice Box Night!" promotion in Port Charlotte on Friday after the Yankees and Rays objected and said they found it to be "in poor taste."

    The Stone Crabs, a Rays affiliate but operated independently under Ripken Baseball ownership, said in a statement that they apologized "for the insensitive nature" of the promotion and "in no way meant any ill-intent or to offend anyone."...

  13. Rays minor-league Stone Crabs team apologizes for "A-Rod Juice Box Night!"

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:15: The Stone have now issued an apology and a statement:
    The Charlotte Stone Crabs have decided to cancel tonight's Juice Box Promotion.

    The Charlotte Stone Crabs organization would like to apologize for the insensitive
    nature of tonight's promotion.  We in no way meant any ill-intent or to offend
    anyone through this promotion.

    We sincerely apologize to the New York Yankees organization, the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and anyone offended by this promotion....

    This is the photo illustration on the Stone Crabs Twitter feed.
  14. For starters, Rays vs. A's, facing an old friend

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:22: Cash said the Rays were glad to see a lefty so he could get Butler and Beckham into the lineup, and Forsythe off his feet for a day. ... INF Ryan Brett and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser will start their rehab assignments for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs on Sunday. ... Cash said  both OF Desmond Jennings (left knee bursitis) and DH/OF John Jaso (bruised left wrist) are doing well but nothing is scheduled for a return to action....

  15. 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....

    Williams Perez pumps his fist after Asdrubal Cabrera’s double-play grounder ends the fourth inning.