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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. For the moment, Rays content with roster

    Sports

    With two weeks until the opening of spring training, the Rays feel good about their roster, especially their depth and versatility.

    Assuming all key players make it through spring, the only thing they seemingly have to do by April is find a way to dispose of first baseman James Loney, who is said to be in tremendous shape.

    That would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson getting a chunk of his at-bats at DH and their preferred outfield alignment of Desmond Jennings in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, with Brandon Guyer as the top backup (and starter somewhere vs. lefty pitchers)....

  2. Rays happy with roster, could still make moves to improve

    The Heater

    With two weeks until the opening of spring training, the Rays feel good about their roster, especially their depth and versatility.

    Assuming all key players make it through spring, the only thing they seemingly have to do by April is find a way to dispose of 1B James Loney, who is said to be in tremendous shape.

    That would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson getting a chunk of his at-bats at DH and their preferred outfield alignment of Desmond Jennings in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, with Brandon Guyer as the top backup (and starter somewhere vs. lefty pitchers)....

    Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings (8) in the dugout during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.
  3. Halladay targets PED users at Ted Williams Hall event

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Roy Halladay was thrilled along with the other honorees at Saturday's Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame induction, more so since he was a pitcher.

    And he showed he still had his fastball, explaining why he spoke out on Twitter last month against Hall of Fame candidates Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds over their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    "There were a lot of opinions and a lot of debate, but I didn't hear the views of anybody who competed against any of them and had so much to lose," he said before the Dinner with Chris Archer & Friends event....

  4. Rays among teams considering reliever Tyler Clippard

    Blog

    Free-agent RHP Tyler Clippard may not have to look far for a new home.

    The Rays are among the teams interested in the Mitchell High product, who finished 2015 with the Mets, going 5-4, 2.92 with 19 saves overall.

    Clippard, 31 on Feb. 14, is looking at a pay cut from the $8.3-million he made last season.

    The Rays can offer a set-up role, the chance to play near home and the Florida tax break.

    The D'backs and Mets are among those also interested....

  5. Snell, Adames, Honeywell top Baseball America Rays prospect list

    Blog

    LHP Blake Snell was the obvious selection at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays top 30 prospects included in the just-released annual Prospect Handbook.

    SS Willy Adames and RHP Brent Honeywell were also logical choices for the next two slots, but there were some surprises down the rest of the list in the rankings and capsules that are must-reading to keep up on the prospects.

    The rankings are compiled before the December Rule 5 draft and some trades, so not all transactions are reflected. 3B Kevin Padlo, acquired from Colorado in the Jake McGee trade, was No. 18 on the Rockies list.

    Players who have been in the majors are shown in bold.

    Here is the list:
    1. LHP Blake Snell
    2. SS Willy Adames
    3. RHP Brent Honeywell
    4. OF/1B Jake Bauers
    5. OF Garrett Whitley
    6. OF Mikie Mahtook
    7. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
    8. RHP Jacob Faria
    9. 1B Casey Gillaspie
    10. SS Daniel Robertson
    11. 3B/1B Richie Shaffer
    12. 2B Ryan Brett
    13. C Justin O'Conner
    14. RHP German Marquez (since traded to Rockies)
    15. C Chris Betts
    16. RHP Chih-Wei Hu
    17. OF Justin Williams
    18. SS Adrian Rondon
    19. RHP Brandon Koch
    20. RHP Andrew Bellatti
    21. INF/OF Taylor Motter
    22. OF Tyler Goeddel (since taken by Phillies in Rule 5 draft)
    23. RHP Jamie Schultz
    24. RHP Hunter Wood
    25. SS Jake Hager
    26. C Nick Ciuffo
    27. C Luke Maile
    28. OF Thomas Milone
    29. LHP Enny Romero
    30. RHP Jose Mujica
    Bonus No. 31. OF Jesus Sanchez...

    Pitcher Blake Snell is at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays' top 30 prospects.
  6. Rays release details on FanFest

    Blog

    The Rays today released details on the Feb. 27 FanFest, with autograph tickets going on sale next week. 

    Here is the release from the team:

    Autograph passes for the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest presented by the Tampa Bay Times will go on sale next week. Rays Fan Fest is scheduled for Saturday, February 27 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Season Ticket Holders are granted early entry to Fan Fest beginning at 10 a.m. Admission and parking are free....

    Nathan Smallwood, 2, and his mother, Cari Morales, of St. Petersburg, watch as Rays mascot, Raymond, shows off some dance moves among a group of hula hoopers at last year's Rays Fan Fest.
  7. Details of Rays' planned Cuba trip come into focus

    The Heater

    The Rays' spring trip to Cuba is close to being finalized.

    The current plan is for the team to play one afternoon game against the Cuban National Team on March 22 in Havana.

    The game is set to be televised by ESPN and broadcast on Rays radio.

    MLB's official announcement of the trip and release of further details are pending final approval from the governments.

    The Rays will be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since the Orioles in 1999. The Rays were chosen among several interested teams via lottery....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) delivers in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
  8. Trammell honored by induction into Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame

    The Heater

    Alan Trammell was a 19-year-old in his first spring training with the Tigers when he got off the bus that 1977 day in Winter Haven and was told somebody with the Red Sox was looking for him.

    "It was Ted Williams," Trammell recalled this week. "He knew I was from San Diego, and I guess this was something he did with other kids from there.

    "He had followed me, and he knew about me, and he wanted to introduce himself. I was taken aback to be honest with you. I was in shock. Obviously we all know who Ted Williams is and was. …...

    Trammell was a solid hitter in an era that valued defense.
  9. Smyly is first to beat Rays in an arbitration hearing

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Drew Smyly did what B.J. Upton, Jeff Niemann, Josh Paul, Dioner Navarro and Esteban Yan couldn't do — beat the Rays in an arbitration hearing.

    A three-member panel ruled Thursday in favor of the left-handed pitcher, who will be paid $3.75 million this season. The Rays offered $3.2 million.

    Either figured represented a solid raise from the $2.65 million Smyly made in a 2015 season in which he was limited to 12 starts, going 5-2, 3.11, due to shoulder injuries that required two stints on the disabled list....

  10. Smyly beats Rays in arbitration case, will make $3.75M

    Blog

    LHP Drew Smyly won his arbitration case over the Rays and will make $3.75-million this season, the Tampa Bay Times has confirmed.

    The Rays offered $3.2-million to Smyly, who made $2.65-million last year while being limited to 12 starts due to shoulder injuries that forced him to the DL twice.

    The team and Smyly's agents presented their cases in Phoenix on Tuesday and a three-member panel chose between the two figures and issued a decision today.

    The Rays had been 6-0 in hearings over their first 18 seasons, including 5-0 under the Stuart Sternberg ownership.

    Jon Heyman of MLB Network was first to report the news....

    Drew Smyly was limited to 12 starts last season due to shoulder injuries that forced him to the DL twice.
  11. Rays' trip to Cuba appears set; one game on March 22

    Blog

    The Rays spring trip to Cuba is close to being finalized, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    The expected plan is for the team to play one game against the Cuban National Team on March 22 in Havana.

    The game may be shown on ESPN.

    The Rays, who were chosen among several interested teams via random lottery, will be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since 1999, when the Orioles made a visit.

    After a pre-game ceremony that featured a flag ceremony and greetings from Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings.

    The Rays' trip was originally tentatively slated for March 28-30, so it will cause further changes in the Rays spring schedule.

    Per the schedule on the team website, the Rays have cancelled a March 21 game against the Braves in Port Charlotte, and added a March 29 game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin and a March 30 game against the Red Sox in Port Charlotte....

    Chris Archer and the Rays will be the first major-league team to play in Cuba since 1999, when the Orioles made a visit.
  12. Rays, Smyly argue MLB's first arbitration case

    Blog

     The Rays and LHP Drew Smyly argued baseball's first arbitration case Wednesday in Phoenix over a difference of $550,000.

    A three-member panel will to announce a decision Thursday between the Rays' offer of $3.2-million and Smyly's request for $3.75-million.

    Either way, Smyly gets a solid raise from the $2.65-million he made last season while making only 12 starts due to a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL twice, going 5-2, 3.11.

    The Rays were represented by senior vice president/general counsel John Higgins, Smyly was there with his agents.

    The Rays have a policy to break off talks and procede to a hearing once figures are exchanged, which eliminates the opportunity to settle at the midpoint.

    The Rays are 6-0 in arbitration hearings over their 19 seasons, 5-0 under the Stuart Sternberg regime.

    Also, the Rays signed RHP Adam Reifer to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring camp.

    Reifer, 29, spent last season pitching in Mexico after most of the previous four at the Triple-A level in the St. Louis, Miami and San Francisco organizations....

  13. Rays kick off MLB arbitration hearings with Drew Smyly

    The Heater

    The Rays and lefty pitcher Drew Smyly argued baseball's first arbitration case Wednesday in Phoenix over a difference of $550,000.

    A three-member panel will to announce a decision today between the Rays' offer of $3.2 million for this season and Smyly's request for $3.75 million.

    Either way, Smyly gets a solid raise from the $2.65 million he made last season while making only 12 starts due to a shoulder injury that landed him on the disabled list twice. Smyly finished 5-2 with a 3.11 earned-run average....

  14. Rays add RHP Adam Reifer on minor-league deal

    Blog

    The Rays added another pitcher to their spring training roster, signing RH Adam Reifer to a minor league deal.

    Reifer, 29, spent last season pitching in Mexico after parts of the previous four at the Triple-A level, most recently with the Giants organization. 

    He was originally drafted by the Cardinals.

     

  15. Kevin Kiermaier to take on 35-ounce steak for charity

    Blog

    Rays Gold Glove CF Kevin Kiermaier earned the nickname The Outlaw for robbing opponents of hits with his speed, agility and good hands.

    He will be tested a different way Thursday, trying to eat a 35-ounce smoked ribeye steak, plus two side salads and dessert, to earn a $4,000 donation from the Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill to the Friends of Joshua House charity.

    Kiermaier will make his bid at 6 p.m. at the Clearwater location (2693 Gulf to Bay Blvd.) as part of the nationwide launch of the new menu item....