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 head into offseason optimistic about the future

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays players and coaches carrying bags and boxes out of the Tropicana Field clubhouse on Monday added finality to the disappointingly premature end to this season and formally shifted the focus to next.

    Though the Rays finished eight games under .500 and 19 out of first place, the common sentiment over the past few days is that they aren't far from returning to contention....

    Alex Colome, who made a couple of impressive starts toward the end of the season, could be in the Rays rotation in 2015.
  2. Rays Molina was historically bad at plate

    Blog

    There were several Rays who had down years offensively, from 3b Evan Longoria to OF Wil Myers.

    And then there was C Jose Molina, who had arguably the least productive season of any player in at least the past 100 years.

    Seriously. As if the .178 average weren't low enough, no player who went to the plate that often - 225 at-bats - did so little.

    His two - TWO - extra-base hits matched the fewest by any player in history. (Molina even had more steals, three.) His four - FOUR - runs scored were the fewest. And his .187 slugging percentage was the lowest in more than 100 years....

  3. Former Rays on playoff teams

    Sports

    Ex-Rays in the playoffs

    The Rays didn't make the playoffs this year, but there will be ex-Rays scattered throughout the postseason, which starts tonight:

    ROYALS

    RHP James Shields

    RHP Wade Davis

    INF Jayson Nix+

    Pitching coach Dave Eiland

    A'S

    RHP Jesse Chavez+

    OF Sam Fuld

    OF Jonny Gomes

    RHP Jason Hammel

    C/DH John Jaso*...

  4. Plenty of ex-Rays in playoffs

    Blog

    The Rays didn't make the playoffs this year, but there will be ex-Rays scattered throughout the postseason, which starts Tuesday night:

    ROYALS

    RHP Wade Davis
    INF Jayson Nix+
    RHP James Shields
    Pitching coach Dave Eiland

    A'S
    RHP Jesse Chavez+
    OF Sam Fuld
    OF Jonny Gomes
    RHP Jason Hammel
    C/DH John Jaso*
    LHP Scott Kazmir
    1B/C Stephen Vogt
    Coach Ariel Prieto

    ANGELS

    OF Josh Hamilton+
    INF Shawn O'Malley
    Interim hitting coach Paul Sorrento
    Pitching coach Mike Butcher#

    ORIOLES

    INF Kelly Johnson
    RHP Evan Meek+
    OF Delmon Young

    TIGERS

    LHP Kyle Lobstein+
    LHP David Price

    PIRATES

    Pitching coach Ray Searage#

    GIANTS

    None

    CARDINALS
    LHP Randy Choate

    DODGERS
    OF Carl Crawford
    RHP Roberto Hernandez
    LHP J.P. Howell
    RHP Jamey Wright

    NATIONALS
    C Jose Lobaton
    RHP Rafael Soriano

    + Was in Rays system, didn't play in majors
    * Injured
    # coached with Rays

    ...

  5. Rays: Team strikeout mark falls; Maddon hopes to manage 10 more seasons

    The Heater

    Quote of the day

    "70 would be the new 50."

    Rays manager Joe Maddon, who will be 61 in February, saying he hopes to manage 10 more seasons

    Fan club

    Rays pitchers broke the major-league record for strikeouts in a season with 1,437, surpassing Detroit's 1,428 from last season. But the Indians outdid the Rays, as they finished with 1,442. … Ex-Rays/current Tigers LHP David Price led the majors with 271 strikeouts, joining Texas' Yu Darvish as the only AL pitchers to crack 270 in the past 14 years.

    Crowd control...

    Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon (70) in the dugout before the Detroit Tigers at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, August 21, 2014.
  6. Ben Zobrist, Joel Peralta hope to return to Rays

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — With no pending free agents, the Rays technically have only two contract decisions to make in the offseason, holding options on INF/OF Ben Zobrist and RHP Joel Peralta.

    And if it were up to the players, both would be easy decisions.

    "Of course," Zobrist said. "This is all I've known in the big leagues, and this is my team. This is the team I've played for my whole career, so I'm really hoping I get to play again, at least another year in Tampa (Bay)."...

    Ben Zobrist, who hit .270 with 10 homers, 52 RBIs and a team-leading .354 on-base percentage while starting at five positions plus DH, is due $7.5 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for next season, when he will turn 34. [AP photo]
  7. Rays end losing season with loss to Indians

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — Discussion over which adjectives most aptly describe the Rays' season that ended Sunday will go on, as will the statistical analysis of what went the most wrong and how it can be best fixed.

    But the finality of Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Indians was clear.

    "It's not good," manager Joe Maddon said. "We don't like it at all. It's been an awkward year. We had a lot of really good things happen. The bad thing is that we lost 85 games."...

    David Murphy slides past catcher Jose Molina to score on Zach Walters’ double off Rays starter Alex Cobb into leftfield, putting the Indians ahead 4-2 in the sixth inning.
  8. For starters, Rays at Indians to end it

    Blog

    DEVELOPING: Rays manager Joe Maddon retiterated that he hopes to stay with the Rays and said, even though he turns 61 in February, he thinks he could manage another 10 years, until he is in his 70s and plans to step up a workout plan this off-season.

    Maddon also said there was nothing to read into starting veteran C Jose Molina in today's farewell. Though Molina is signed for next season at $2.75-million, his poor production this season has led to speculation he may be done as a Ray. Maddon said it was simply a matter of splitting the workload with Ryan Hanigan, who has been playing with a sore toe....

    Alex Cobb will be on the mound, pitching primarily just to log innings since he missed six weeks on the DL.
  9. Rays: Ben Zobrist part of rare power-speed club

    The Heater

    Rays at Indians

    When/where: 1:05 today; Progressive Field, Cleveland

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 1250-AM, 97.9 FM

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Cobb (10-8, 2.75)

    INDIANS: LH T.J. House (4-3, 3.43)

    On Cobb: Heir-apparent Rays ace makes last start to build up innings for expected increase next season. Leads majors with a 1.49 ERA since All-Star break. Hasn't allowed a homer over past 811/3 innings. Is 3-1, 1.93 in four starts vs. Indians, including '13 AL wild-card game....

    Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) slides into second base but is out by New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) in the first inning during the MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, September 17, 2014.
  10. Rays' Joe Maddon stays positive at end of difficult year

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — Managing the Rays through the struggles, injuries, issues, false hopes and tribulations of their disappointing season that concludes today was tiring for manager Joe Maddon.

    It was taxing, as he tried different tactics within the framework of his philosophies to get them righted, and somewhat exasperating when nothing ultimately worked.

    And it was frustrating, and will be for the next month, for him to not be part of the postseason as the Rays were four of the past six Octobers. They certainly expected to be again this year after boosting their payroll to a franchise-record $80 million....

    Joe Maddon’s contract with the Rays will be up after next season, his 10th, and he has been paid below market value for someone widely considered one of the best managers in the game. A deal could happen this offseason.
  11. Shelton, other coaches to return; Rays shut out Indians

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — The Rays are set after Saturday's 2-0 win over the Indians to close out their least productive offensive season in franchise history and finish last in the American League in runs. But manager Joe Maddon made clear — again — that hitting coach Derek Shelton is not to blame and is expected to return.

    Maddon said he does not expect any changes to his coaching staff — all signed through next year — and believes the staff collectively and individually "did a great job this year."...

    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Colome throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) OHTD102
  12. For starters, Rays at Indians, in the penultimate game

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:22: Rays manager Joe Maddon said he does not expect any changes in the coaching staff for next season and praised the work of hitting coach Derek Shelton, who is oft criticized by fans. ... The Indians switched pitchers for Sunday, with LHP TJ House now starting instead of RHP Danny Salazar.  ... Rays C Curt Casali said he feels much better since sustaining a concussion on Tuesday but won't play tonight or Sunday....

  13. A Tampa Bay Rays season to forget

    The Heater

    Rays manager Joe Maddon said quite a bit as the season of grand expectation devolved into one of great disappointment. But through the injuries, the inept individual and collective performances, the exposing of structural flaws in roster composition, the inexplicable absence of good fortune, and the misery of the 1-14 stretch from which they never really recovered, what he said the most was that things "just didn't want to work out." In essence, that's a polite way to avoid assigning blame. There was plenty to go around as the Rays were left with their first losing record since the Devil Rays days. Here's a look at some things that went wrong, some that went right and some other things:...

    Even in a down year, Evan Longoria has produced enough for the Rays to qualify as their most valuable player.
  14. Rays' Chris Archer wraps up breakout year

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — Rays manager Joe Maddon refers often to a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about how a mind once stretched never returns to its original form.

    In the case of pitcher Chris Archer, who put a fine finish on his first full major-league season in Friday's 1-0 loss to the Indians, it extends to mind, body and right arm. Because in a way, everything Archer did this season — making 32 starts, working 194⅔ innings, posting a 10-9 record and 3.33 ERA — was about making him a better pitcher in future years....

    Chris Archer caps his season Friday with what Joe Maddon calls his best outing (3 hits in 7⅔ innings).
  15. Rays shut out by Indians

    The Heater

    CLEVELAND — If the Rays' pitchers don't finish the season ahead of the Indians for the most strikeouts in a season in major-league history, they can blame their hitters.

    That's because Friday, 12 Rays struck out — 11 against ace Corey Kluber — in a 1-0 loss that kept the Indians alive in the American League wild-card race until the A's beat the Rangers 6-2 later to eliminate Cleveland....

    CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 celebrates with catcher Yan Gomes #10 of the Cleveland Indians after the end of the top of the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field on September 26, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Rays 1-0. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) 477590643