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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. Jake McGee throws for first time since elbow surgery

    Blog

    Rays LHP Jake McGee took the latest step in his recovery from December elbow surgery, playing catch for the first time since on Monday at the Trop.

    McGee is aiming for a mid- to late-April return.

    He had arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in his left elbow.

  2. Kevin Cash remains optimistic after Rays' moves

    The Heater

    During his first week on the job during the December winter meetings, new Rays manager Kevin Cash was quite pleased with the lineups he was jotting down.

    Cash is still scribbling, but those names are vastly differently now — "They've been tweaked," he cracked — as the Rays have since traded half the team he thought he'd inherited, dealing SS Yunel Escobar, C Ryan Hanigan, INF/OF Ben Zobrist and OFs Matt Joyce and Wil Myers....

    Kevin Cash new Tampa Bay Rays Manager attends the Major League Baseball winter meetings.
  3. Rays name Jared Sandberg manager at Triple-A Durham

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jared Sandberg has a pretty good idea what he's getting into as the Rays' new Triple-A manager, having played parts of five seasons in Durham and for both the highly successful skippers who held the job previously, Bill Evers and Charlie Montoyo.

    "Both Bill and Charlie managed me in the minors, and the tradition they set in Durham makes for some pretty big shoes to fill," Sandberg said Wednesday, "but I feel like I can handle it and I'm up to the challenge."...

  4. Sandberg to Durham as Rays set staffs

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:19: The Rays have released the full staffs, with a couple of other interesting notes: Longtime - and very well-respected - Rays minor-league catcher Craig Albernaz will make his coaching debut as a member of the staff at rookie-level Princeton, and Jorge Moncada was promoted to assistant pitching coordinator to fill the void left by Kyle Snyder's promotion to Triple-A Durham.

    DEVELOPING: The Rays are in the process today of announcing their minor-league coaching staffs....

  5. Rays well-stocked in shortstop prospects

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have a long scroll of shortstops of the future who have not — or not yet — made it to the present.

    Tim Beckham is heading into his eighth season of trying through varied issues. Hak-Ju Lee was derailed by a significant knee injury at Triple A. Jake Hager has made steady but slow progress through Double A.

    But over the past few months, the Rays have refreshed that list, bringing in three elite-level young shortstops — Willy Adames, Daniel Robertson and Adrian Rondon — who are considered among their best prospects and brightest hopes to be impact players....

    Rays infielder Adrian Rondon during the Rays’ Winter Development Program at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.[WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times] 
  6. Ben Zobrist thanks Rays, fans in heartfelt ad

    Blog

    After a week to come to grips with the trade to Oakland, former Rays INF/OF Ben and Julianna Zobrist shared their feelings about his former Rays bosses and teammates, and the Tampa Bay fans, in a heartfelt ad that ran in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.

     

    The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.
  7. Rays say moves try to balance future, present

    The Heater

    Matt Silverman did not simply wake up one morning after sliding into his new role as president of Rays baseball operations and decide to ship out nearly half the team he inherited. • It only looked that way. • The massive offseason makeover that Silverman has orchestrated — making seven trades that sent nine key players packing and cutting a 10th — is the product of a process to restock a sagging farm system, reduce what had been a franchise-high payroll (though only by about $10 million, to around $70 million) and increase the flexibility of the roster, all while hanging on to enough talent to return the team to contention. • "It's a little bit of a threading of the needle," Silverman said. "We're working within our constraints to field a team that we believe can compete, while at the same time keeping an eye on the needed talent in our system to maintain confidence in our long-term competitiveness." • The plan — yes, despite what some critics suggest, they do have one — was employed, and perhaps accelerated, after Silverman replaced Andrew Friedman in mid October, then saw manager Joe Maddon leave....

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
  8. DeJesus deal among possible moves in play for Rays

    The Heater

    Even with all the changes so far, the Rays seem likely to make a few more moves before or during spring training.

    One would be trading veteran OF David DeJesus, who with the addition of fellow lefty swinger John Jaso as the primary DH seems reduced to occasional duty or insurance in case rookie OF Steven Souza isn't deemed ready.

    With a reasonable $5 million salary and limited free-agent outfield options, DeJesus should have some market appeal, at least bringing back a prospect....

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter David DeJesus (7) scored an in the park home run in the fourth inning after Baltimore Orioles left fielder Alejandro De Aza had the ball knocked loose from his glove, after colliding with Baltimore Orioles center fielder David Lough (9) as the Rays take on the Orioles Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field. DeJesus is all smiles after making it back to the dugout.
  9. Ryan Dempster's "Top 10 Reasons Cubs Hired Joe Maddon" from Rays gets laughs in Chicago

    Blog

    The annual Cubs convention is an even bigger deal than usual this year, with the hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon among the reasons for the increased excitement. And former Cubs pitcher and current front office special assistant Ryan Dempster had some fun with Maddon - and indirectly the Rays - in a Letterman-style Top 10 list he performed Friday night (courtesy mlb.com):

    "The Top 10 reasons the Cubs hired Joe Maddon:"

    10. "We misheard and thought he knew (actor) Eva Longoria."

    9. "We're trying to set the Guinness Book of World Records for most fired managers."

    8. "We needed someone who would take the leftover Harry Caray glasses."

    7. "The Cubs' bus keeps breaking down so we figured, 'Hey, we can use his RV.' "

    6. "Most managers take shots from the media; Joe Maddon buys shots for the media."

    5. "We have a young team here in Chicago, and if 60 is the new 40, well, we need someone to manage all of our toddlers."

    4. "(Model wife of former Cub/current Rays OF David DeJesus) Kim DeJesus told us to."

    3. "He's the son of a plumber and, let's just face it: the Wrigley bathrooms need a ton of work."

    2. "We just feel bad for anyone who lives in Florida."

    1. "Well, because of all the other managers we tried to tamper with, none of them called us back.''...

  10. Cobb gets biggest boost as Rays settle with all eligible for arbitration

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Alex Cobb did plenty of listening as his agents led him through the arbitration process for the first time, agreeing Friday to a one-year deal with the Rays for $4 million.

    Then the 27-year-old right-hander indicated he would be open to talking more about a contract that could tie him to the Rays long term.

    "Nothing's ever off the table," Cobb said. "I'm always open for discussion; I think everyone always should be."...

    Alex Cobb, 27, says he is open to talks for a long-term deal with the Rays. “Nothing’s ever off the table,” he says.
  11. Rays arbitration update: Jennings first, all cases settled, Cobb gets $4M

    Blog

    UPDATE, 1:43: Smyly, who was eligible for the first time as a Super Two, settled for $2.65M, plus the chance at an additional $25,000 if he makes 28 starts and $25,000 more if he gets to 30.

    UPDATE, 1:38: Several of the players who reached settlements have performance bonuses included in their 1-year deals. The biggest is Rivera, who can get an extra $200,000 based on the number of games he starts at catcher, up to 105. McGee can get an additional $25,000 for 65 and for 70  games, Forsythe an extra $25,000 for 400 plate appearances.
    ...

  12. Rays dealing with eight arbitration-eligible players

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were in negotiations Thursday night with most, if not all, of their eight arbitration-eligible players.

    But by 1 p.m. today, there will be some form of resolution.

    Under long-standing team policy, negotiations are cut off at the major-league-wide deadline to exchange figures, with any unresolved cases resulting in a hearing next month. Most of the eight cases are expected to be settled by the deadline....

  13. Rays Sternberg named to MLB Executive Council

    Blog

    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg was named to Major League Baseball's Executive Council.

    Selection to the powerful eight-member panel that advises the commissioner - and soon to be new commissioner Rob Manfred - on major issues is the latest indication of Sternberg's stature among owners. He previously has served on several top committees, including as chairman of the Diversity Oversight Committee....

  14. Nats GM confident ex-Ray Escobar won't be a problem

    Blog

    Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made it quite clear on a conference call with Washington area reporters today he was quite pleased to get former Rays SS Yunel Escobar from the A's, reiterated plans to play him at second base, said they were confident Escobar would not cause problems in their clubhouse and attributed his poor defense last season to injuries and the Tropicana Field turf.

    Here are some highlights of Rizzo's comments on dealing reliever Tyler Clippard for Escobar, whom the Rays sent to Oakland on Saturday as part of the Ben Zobrist deal, courtesy Natsinsider.com. The deal to Washington was the fifth time Escobar has been traded since Julyu 2010:

    On why this trade made sense:
    Rizzo: "We saw this as a great value trade for us, getting ourselves an everyday player for two, possibly three, seasons at very reasonable market values. And we had to give up a very good relief pitcher on a one-year deal. So that's how you have to balance every trade that you do. We balance it by asking the questions: Do we increase our chances of winning in 2015? I think that would be a yes, because we upgrade ourselves at the position of second base. And what does it do for us for the future? Well, it gives us infield depth and an infield option at shortstop for the next year or possibly two at below-market, major-league value."

    On Escobar's defensive struggles last season at Tampa Bay and whether that's cause for concern moving forward:
    Rizzo: "We see Yuni as being an above-average defender at shortstop and at second base. He has been his entire career, except for last year. Last year he played with a - especially down towards the latter part of the year - played with a soreness in his shoulder that affected a little bit of his throwing, and a quad that affected a little bit of his range. We feel that getting him off the carpet in Tampa Bay and playing on natural grass at Nationals Park will just be a positive for him defensively. We have no qualms about his defense. We think he's an outstanding defensive player that's going to upgrade us offensively and defensively."

    On questions about Escobar's past character issues:

    "We've done a lot of due diligence on Yuni and talked to a lot of people. We talked to a lot of personnel in Tampa Bay, and he was a good teammate at Tampa Bay the time he was there. The discretions he's had, they're well-documented. We're not going to be an apologist for poor behavior. But that was years ago and when he was a younger kid. We believe he has matured. He's matured into a good player. He's matured into a much better teammate over the past couple of years. We vetted him quite a bit. We've done a lot of due diligence and homework on his character and makeup, and we're satisfied that he will fit into the Nationals' clubhouse."

    On (current SS) Ian Desmond's status as a result of this trade:

    "Our approach with Ian Desmond has not changed one bit since the end of last season. Ian Desmond is our shortstop. He's a leader of our team. He's one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. And he's going to be the shortstop of the Washington Nationals. With that said, Ian Desmond or any other player on the roster, if a deal comes up that we can't refuse, we'll always look to improve ourselves for 2015 and beyond. But it's hard to replace one of the, if not the, best shortstops in all of baseball. A deal would have to be pretty elaborate not to have Ian Desmond on this team. Ian Desmond, in my mind, is the shortstop of the Washington Nationals, one of the leaders of the club and one of the best players in baseball."...

  15. New young talent impresses Rays at Trop workout

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Most of the focus for the past few months has been on the veterans the Rays have traded away. But this week's winter development program at the Trop provided team officials a reassuring look at some of the young talent they got back in return.

    "It's exciting to see this young group that our team acquired," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. "It's nice to see the new players with the maturation they have at a young age, and it's also really good to see skill. Those are two good things in young players."...

    Rays infielder Adrian Rondon works out during the Rays' Winter Development Program Wednesday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]