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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 Colby Rasmus expected to open season on DL


    Rays OF Colby Rasmus said this morning he expects to open the season on the DL.

    Though Rasmus has been playing in games as the DH, he said Saturday morning he doesn't feel good enough in recovery from hip and core muscle repair surgery yet to play the field at full speed, which the Rays have said is a prerequisite.

    "We've been trying to progress up to that point but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL,'' Rasmus said. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings. I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet.''

    With DL stays shortened to 10 days this season, and backdating limited to three, Rasmus could miss as few as six games over the first seven days of the season, which opens next Sunday.

    "We'll just have to see how it goes day by day,'' he said. "I had hoped that I would be able to maybe DH, but that's not what they're looking for me to do.''

    Manager Kevin Cash confirmed that is the current plan.

    "Colby has made huge strides here the last couple days,'' he said. "We've all spent time talking with him. I think it's a pretty good thought process that he has saying that when he comes out and plays the field he wants to make sure he feels good and can go track a ball down in the gap and he's just not quite there yet. He will continue to get his at-bats DH-ing and just continue taking it day to day and see how he does. ... We're more optimistic, and I think he is, too, that it's sooner than later if he does start with that scenario.''

    With Rasmus out, OF Mallex Smith seems likely to make the opening day roster, and probably start in leftfield on opening day, with Corey Dickerson as the DH....

  2. Rays report: Snell faces Red Sox in Port Charlotte, 1:05


    UPDATE, 10:56: Here is the Red Sox lineup:
    Castillo cf
    Sandoval 3b
    Young dh
    Rutledge 1b
    Hernandez 2b
    Swihart c
    Selsky rf
    Brentz lf
    Marrero ss
    Haviland p

    UPDATE, 10:33: Rasmus is now out of the lineup, with Logan Morrison as the DH and leadoff hitter.

    UPDATE: 10:08: Colby Rasmus said, and Cash confirmed, that he is expected to start the season on the DL as he is not yet ready to play the field after recovering from hip and core muscle repair surgery and wants to be sure he will be at full speed before doing so. That should be good news for OF Mallex Smith to make the opening day roster. ....  No official word yet on Norris signing, but could be later today. Rays Cash said, hypothetically, it means three guys competing for two jobs - Casali, Maile and Sucre - are now doing so for one. ... Cash said the infielders plus outfielders Corey Dickerson, Mallex Smith and Kevin Kiermaier will work out at the Trop on Sunday morning to check out the new turf, then head over to Tampa to play the Yankees. .. Noting some recent sloppy play, Cash said, it's time to clean some stuff up.''...

  3. Rays journal: Veteran catcher Derek Norris close to signing contract

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — The Rays are adding a new frontline catcher in signing free agent Derek Norris, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    The one-year major-league deal with Norris, pending a physical that could be completed today, is for $1.2 million plus $800,000 in performance bonuses. He would be under Rays control for 2018 in his final year of arbitration.

    The Rays will have to create space on the 40-man roster when the deal is complete, with Curt Casali, Luke Maile and nonroster invitee Jesus Sucre now competing for the other spot. Manager Kevin Cash declined comment after the Rays' 4-0 loss to the Pirates on Friday....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
  4. Rays to sign catcher Derek Norris


    UPDATE, 4:47: The major-league deal is for $1.2-million guaranteed, plus $800,000 in performance bonuses.

    DEVELOPING: The Rays are signing free-agent C Derek Norris, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    The deal with Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, though the Rays could retain control of Norris in 2018 when he'd be eligible for arbitration for a final time. The total value is expected to be worth less than $2-million.

    They will have to create space on the 40-man roster once the deal is finalized....

    The deal with Derek Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, with no option.
  5. Rays report: Ramirez starting on bullpen day in Bradenton, 1:05


    UPDATE, 9:35: Change in pitching plans for the Rays, apparently, as Erasmo Ramirez is now listed as the starter. That makes sense, as he is a potential trade candidate since he may have more value to another team as a starter than the to the Rays as a middle reliever, and it also gets him stretched out for multi-inning work or even as a fill-in starter for the Rays.

    Here is the lineup:

    Morrison 1b,
    Robertson ss,
    Dickerson LF,
    Miller 2b,
    Casali c,
    Smith cf,
    McKenry DH,
    Peterson RF,
    Sole 3b,
    Erasmo p

    No sign Friday morning of SS Matt Duffy, who went to Charlotte on Thursday to have his left heel checked by the doc who did his Sept. surgery....

    Erasmo Ramirez is listed as the starter for this afternoon's game in Bradenton.
  6. Rays talking to free-agent catcher Derek Norris


    The Rays are among the teams talking with free-agent C Derek Norris, that Tampa Bay Times has learned, but according to a source as of Thursday night "are on the outside looking in.''

    Norris was released last week by the Nationals - because they signed Matt Wieters whom the Rays pursued - and was paid about $700,000 in termination pay, one-sixth of his $4.2-million arbitration contract. He is free to sign elsewhere and negotiate his best deal.

    Signing Norris, 28, would give the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

    Norris is coming off a rough offensive year in San Diego, where he hit .186 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs, though only a .255 on-base percentage and .583 OPS. While his offense has been in a two-year decline since his 2014 All-Star season with Oakland, his defensive work, specifically his pitch framing, has improved....

    Derek Norris, right, was released last week by the Nationals.
  7. Owner Stuart Sternberg doesn't know what to expect from Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Where the Rays will be playing in five or six years is one complex question principal owner Stuart Sternberg is trying to answer.

    STADIUM SEARCH: Top choices are unavailable, but Rays still hope to find a new home in Tampa Bay, Stuart Sternberg says.


    Principal owner Stuart Sternberg says the Rays are better but it’s tough to project a win total.
  8. Stu Sternberg: Top choices for Rays new stadium are unavailable

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed some complications in his team's search for a new stadium on Thursday, yet said he's still confident they will find a new home in the Tampa Bay area.

    What were the Rays' top five choices for a new stadium — three in Tampa and two in St. Petersburg — are unavailable. That may push the team's time line for finding a new site from August to the end of 2017....

    “We’re sort of moving down our list,” said Stuart Sternberg.
  9. Rays' Sternberg says top choice unavailable, stadium search ongoing


    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg still expects to conclude the search for a new stadium site in the Tampa Bay area this year, but revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top choice, or even top two.

    "We had some ideas on locations that just weren't available, that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they're off the table,'' Sternberg said in Port Charlotte. "So we're sort of moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4. It's like starting pitchers, you have five of them and sometimes No. 4 is better than No. 2, but rarely better than No. 1. The No. 1 is the No. 1. I hate to be mixing these sort of metaphors, but it sort of works in this case....

    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top stadium choice, or even top two.
  10. Rays report: Rays host Yankees with ESPN televising, 1:05


    The Rays are back in Port Charlotte today to host the Yankees with ESPN televising, first pitch at 1:05.

    RHP Austin Pruitt, one of the prospects making an push for a job in the bullpen, will start for the Rays. LHP Jordan Montgomery will start for the Yankees.

    Also slated to pitch for the Rays: RH Chase Whitley, RH Danny Farquhar, RH Shawn Tolleson, LH Xavier Cedeño, RH David Carpenter....

    Austin Pruitt, one of the prospects making an push for a job in the bullpen, will start for the Rays.
  11. Rays journal: Chris Archer feeling good

    The Heater

    SARASOTA — Kevin Cash said this is the best RHP Chris Archer has looked during Cash's three springs as the Rays' manager, and Archer agrees.

    The yet-to-be announced opening day starter pitched 52/3 innings Wednesday, his longest outing of the spring, in a 7-4 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Archer allowed his first runs of the spring, three of which were earned, and a two-run home run to centerfield to Chris Johnson. But Archer said he threw only six sliders, opting to continue his plan this spring to improve his fastball command....

    Chris Archer gets his longest outing of the spring, 52/3 innings vs. the Orioles.
  12. How the Tim Beckham spring turnaround could pay off for Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The way last season ended, Tim Beckham could not have seemed more irrelevant to the Rays, sent down after late-season mental lapses, then sent home for September even as two infielders were summoned to fill in off their couches.

    The way this season is starting, Beckham could not seem more important to the Rays, slated initially for a key super-utility role and then, with Matt Duffy's stalled heel rehab, shifted to what looks to be the starting shortstop job, impressing since camp opened with his performance and attitude....

    Baltimore Orioles third baseman Chris Johnson (17) high fives  designated hitter Pedro Alvarez (24) after his two run home run in the fourth inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
  13. Rays report: Archer on mound vs. Orioles in Sarasota, 6:05


    UPDATE, 1:16: SS Matt Duffy will fly to N.C. on Thursday to see the doctor who did the Septe,ber surgery on his left heel to see why his recovery has been slow and if some change to his rehab program might help. ... RHP Jumbo Diaz reported to camp, having been claimed on waivers from the Reds while with the Dominican WBC team, and said he is ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen, planning to workout today and throw in the Thursday game,

    Here is the Rays lineup:
    Dickerson LF,
    Kiermaier cf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Miller 2b,
    Rasmus DH,
    Morrison 1b,
    Beckham RF,
    Maile c,
    Robertson ss,
    Archer p...

    Chris Archer is slated for his last long test of the spring, working seven innings or throwing 105 pitches.
  14. Rays at Orioles, 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, Sarasota

    The Heater

    Today: at Orioles, 6:05

    Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St., Sarasota

    Radio: 620-AM

    Pitchers: Rays, Chris Archer; Orioles, Chris Lee

    Rays information: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    On deck

    Thursday: vs. Yankees, 1:05. Rays, Austin Pruitt; Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

    Friday: at Pirates (Bradenton), 1:05. Rays, Diego Moreno; Pirates, Trevor Williams...

  15. Rays journal: Answers sought for Matt Duffy's slow recovery

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — The reasoning for newly acquired SS Matt Duffy having heel surgery in September was so that he would finish his rehab in spring training and be ready to start the season.

    But Duffy is still limited to drills and strengthening exercises, not yet having even run.

    And the Rays are seeking answers for the slow pace of his recovery.

    "I hope in the next few days we get a little more clarity," manager Kevin Cash said. "I think we're to the point now that some of these issues might not even be from the actual surgery, and I'm saying that in a good way. Maybe we get him checked out and it's something we can do something different with and treat a little differently."...

    Daniel Robertson needed a moment to catch his breath after his foul ball hit a fan.