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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' Steven Souza Jr. suffers gash on pinky

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Though initial X-rays were negative, OF Steven Souza Jr. headed to Kansas City concerned about his right pinky that was gashed badly enough to require stitches when he was hit by a Bryan Mitchell pitch in the eighth of Sunday's win over the Yankees.

    "I can't really bend it too well right now," Souza said. "I'm hoping I wake up (today) and it feels a little better. I don't have much feeling in my pinky right now, which is kind of a worry for us."...

    Steven Souza Jr. gets tended to after being hit on his right hand by a pitch, injuring his pinky.
  2. Rays-Royals preview


    Rays at Royals

    When/where: 8:10 tonight; Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Colome (3-4, 4.70)

    ROYALS: RH Edinson Volquez (8-4, 3.48)

    On Colome: Rays have lost his past eight starts, are 3-10 overall. Coming off seven-inning, 104 pitch outing vs. Indians, allowing five runs, fourth time of five or more. Has never faced Royals....

    HOUSTON, TX - JULY 01:  Edinson Volquez #36 of the Kansas City Royals waits on the mound in the first inning during their game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 1, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) 538585545
  3. Souza has some concern over bruised, cut finger


    Though initial x-rays were negative, OF Steven Souza Jr. said he has some concern over his right pinkie, which was bruised and cut after being hit by a pitch in the eighth inning.

    Souza said he received three stitches in a cut that was so deep he could see the tendon, and had no feeling in the finger as he was getting dressed after the game.

    Souza said he will see a specialist in Kansas City on Monday. For now he is day to day....

  4. Rays rout Yankees, snap seven-game losing skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — What is usually a rollicking celebration of a victory was even a little more raucous in the Rays clubhouse Sunday afternoon. Pitbull's Don't Stop the Party blared from the speakers, veteran David DeJesus paraded through the room banging his cymbals, and James Loney, though without the saxophone he usually blows, was at the focus of the festivities.

    "It was loud today, as it needed to be," catcher Curt Casali said. "We had to make up for the last seven days, so we had to make it pretty loud."...

    New York Yankees' Ivan Nova's errant throw skips away from Yankees third baseman Chase Headley, left, as Tampa Bay Rays' Curt Casali, right, and umpire Gabe Morales, center, react in the fifth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Casali scored on the error. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) NYY107
  5. Rays end 7-game skid with easy 8-1 win over Yankees


    Breaking a seven-game losing streak was actually pretty easy for the Rays on Sunday.

       All they needed to beat the Yankees 8-1 was a solid six-inning start by Erasmo Ramirez, a few early runs, some sloppy play by the pinstripers and some rare no-stress relief work.

      Plenty had been going wrong for the Rays (43-41) as they lost seven straight and 11 of 13 games, five in the ninth inning or later.

       But Sunday they played a relatively crisp game.

       Ramirez walked three in the first two innings and dropped a throw at first that cost him an out, but settled into an impressive groove, allowing only one hit through the first five innings and his only run on a leadoff homer to Alex Rodriguez in the sixth.

       The Rays strung together three straight hits to get two runs in the first, James Loney picking up the RBIs. Then they added on in the third when Kevin Kiermaier tripled - thanks to Yankees centerfielder Brett Gardner misjudging his line drive - and Curt Casali followed with a sac fly.

       The Rays took advantage of the Yankees botching a bunt play for a run in the fifth. And they benefitted from more Yankees miscues in the eighth, when they scored four runs on two hits, a check-swing infield single by Evan Longoria and a blooper than landed on the rightfield line by Logan Forsythe. The rest came courtesy of two errors (by Jose Pirela on the same play), two walks (one with the bases loaded) and a bit batter. Rightfielder Steven Souza Jr. was struck on the right hand and stayed in the game initially then left after the inning.

        The Rays continue their challenging stretch of games leading into the All-Star break by heading next to Kansas City, where they will have righthander Alex Colome on the mound Monday night facing Edinson Volquez.


  6. For starters, Rays at Yankees, looking for a break


    UPDATE, 12:19: Cash said Archer was "a no-brainer" to make the AL All-Star team and was "worthy" of being the starter.  ... Longoria needed "a day off his feet" so that is why he is DHing, and thus why neither Butler nor Sizemore is in the lineup. ... Jaso may spend only a few days at Durham (DH today, play LF Monday) as Cash said he "possibly" could join the team in KC. ... Asked about other Rays All-Star candidates, Cash mentioned Kiermaier (defense, speed), Forsythe (versatility), Jepsen (high leverage work), Boxberger (saves). ...  Though Casali is playing again today, Cash said Rivera will get the bulk of the work in Kansas City given how much the Royals run....

  7. Rays-Yankees preview

    The Heater

    Rays at Yankees

    When/where: 1:05 today; Yankee Stadium, New York

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Erasmo Ramirez (6-3, 4.01)

    YANKEES: RH Ivan Nova (1-1, 1.50)

    On Ramirez: Returned from groin strain with solid Tuesday outing vs. Indians, allowing one run over 52/3 IP. Has 2.18 ERA over past 18 games, season low overall. Is 1-0, 2.00 in four games vs. Yankees....

  8. Rays Tales: Best players to have played for Rays

    The Heater

    Any debate over who is the best-ever Rays player arguably ends up with four candidates worthy of discussion — OF Carl Crawford, LHP David Price, INF/OF Ben Zobrist and 3B Evan Longoria, who has the benefit of seven more years under contract to add to his resume.

    Price had the greatest individual achievement in winning 20 games and the AL Cy Young Award in 2012 while making four All-Star teams. Crawford had the longest career in Tampa Bay while also earning four All-Star selections. Zobrist has the most on-field and sabermetric value because of his immeasurable versatility and impressive production. Longoria has the opportunity to be the franchise leader in almost every key offensive category along with three All-Stars nods, two Gold Gloves and a rookie of the year plaque....

    Fred McGriff hit 493 career homers and made five All-Star teams.
  9. Rays' Souza snaps slump in impressive fashion

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — OF Steven Souza Jr. insisted he wasn't paying attention to a nearly week-and-a-half-long hitless streak. Or maybe he had just lost count after Saturday's first-inning strikeout against the Yankees left him hitless in his past 26 at-bats with 16 strikeouts.

    But he had reason to feel better about himself by the end of the day, snapping his skid with a fourth-inning single off Michael Pineda then flexing some muscle with a tying two-run homer in the ninth off Dellin Betances....

    Tampa Bay Rays' Steven Souza Jr., left, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a baseball game-tying two-run home run against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning Saturday, July 4, 2015, in New York. The Yankees won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)  NYJJ127
  10. Rays find another way to lose, 3-2 on botched bunt play


       Saturday's game didn't have quite the same script as Friday's saga, but it ended the same way, with the Rays walking off the field in defeat and the Yankees celebrating.
         Pinch-runner Jose Pirela scored when reliever Brad Boxberger bounced his throw to first after fielding a bunt with no outs in the ninth giving the Yankees a 3-2 win.
         Mark Teixeira, who hit a three-run game-tying homer on Friday in the Yankees 7-5 12-inning victory, started the winning rally Saturday with a leadoff double against Boxberger. Chris Young walked and the Yankees were merely trying to advance the runners when Boxberger bounced his throw  and Jake Elmore's return throw to the plate was too late as Pirela scored from second.
       The Yankees scored two runs in the first inning off Rays starter Nathan Karns. The Rays scored two runs in the ninth inning off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances on a homer by Steven Souza Jr.
       The Rays, as has been the case during the skid, didn't do much offensively through the firsy eight innings. They got two hits in the first inning off Yankees starter Michael Pineda, but only three over the next seven innings.
         But one of those was a fourth-inning single by Souza, ending his personal 0-for-26 hitless streak that included 16 strikeouts.
        And that paid off when he came up in the ninth, after James Loney led off with a single, and launched a homer to left, his 15th of the season.
         Karns overall made a solid start, working sevev innings, allowing five hits and two walks but striking out 10.
        Brett Gardner opened the Yankees first with a single, then Chase Headley followed with another. Alex Rodriguez made it three in a row with a bloop single to right that scored Gardner. Mark Teixeira followed with a sac fly to center that made it 2-0.
       The Rays will try to snap their season-worst skid on Sunday at 1:05 with Erasmo Ramirez on the mound against Yankees righthander Ivan Nova.


  11. Slumping Rays tie then lose in ninth to Yankees

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The latest example of how badly things are going for the Rays came with a particularly cruel result Saturday.

    Instead of taking the out the Yankees were giving them on a simple bunt in the ninth inning, the Rays instead gave away another game, reliever Brad Boxberger's errant throw allowing the decisive run to score in a 3-2 walkoff loss that was their seventh straight and 11th in their past 13 games....

    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Nathan Karns delivers against the New York Yankees during the second inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) NYJJ106
  12. For starters, Rays at Yankees, trying to bounce back


    UPDATE, 12:13: Cash said it was just a day off for Forsythe, and he will look to get Cabrera one too. ... The move with Riefenhouser was not ideal, Cash said, but they felt the need to have a long man who could throw up to 100 pitches. ... Geltz apologized for not talking to the media after Friday's loss, saying he was very emotional and needed time to collect his thoughts. ... That said, Geltz said he threw a splitter first pitch to McCann and it was high so he was concerned about falling behind and opted for the fastball that was misplaced. ... Jepsen said the game-tying he gave up to Teixeira was on a changeup and joked he was "pissed" to hear the Yankees TV crew say it was a fastball when it clocked at 88 mph. Said he knew when he threw it it was in a bad place - "like it was in slow motion.''...

  13. Rays drop Riefenhauser, add Teaford


    The Rays added some depth to their bullpen Saturday by sending down the only reliever who didn't pitch Friday, C.J. Riefenhauser, and calling up LHP Everett Teaford.

    To make room for Teaford, who will serve as the long man in the pen, they designated for assignment 1B Marc Krauss, who had been recently acquired from the Angels and sent to Triple-A Durham.

    It was a tough draw for Riefenhauser, who grew up 30 minutes from Yankee Stadium and attended many games growing up, was making his first trip in as a big-leaguer, had lots of family on hand and after not getting in to Friday's game was sent down....

  14. Rays blow leads, fall to Yankees in 12th

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Rays manager Kevin Cash was talking Friday afternoon about how the combination of a rigorous schedule and intense level of play had left his team "a little gassed and ready to get to the break."

    Well, they could only feel worse the way the long night unfolded, blowing a pair of late leads and losing in 12 innings, the 7-5 walkoff defeat to the Yankees their sixth straight loss and 10th in their past 12 games....

    With a runner on second, Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier saves a run with a catch at the wall on a ball hit by Stephen Drew in the third inning.
  15. Rays-Yankees Saturday preview

    The Heater

    Rays at Yankees

    When/where: 1:05 today, Yankee Stadium

    TV/radio: Fox Sports 1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Nathan Karns (4-4, 3.26)

    Yankees: RH Michael Pineda (8-5, 4.08)

    On Karns: Allowed career-high tying 9 hits in last start though only 2 runs. Overall has made an AL-high matching 12 starts allowing 2 or less. Is 1-0, 3.07 in 3 starts vs. Yanks, but hasn't gotten past 5 innings....

    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)