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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 starters, Rays at White Sox, in Shaffer's debut

    Blog

    UPDATE, 7:16:  Sounds like Shaffer will be around for a while, playing 1B and occasionally 3B vs. all LHPs, getting some at-bats vs. RHPs. Probably won't get in the outfield, but not out of the question. .... Shaffer will have his parents, brother, fiancee and financee's parents here tonight. ... He said it felt "pretty surreal" and that as much as he hoped to treat it like any other game he knows that is unlikely. ... Cash said DH/OF Joey Butler needs to get going given his extended struggles, that most of his issues have beem missing pitches he had been hitting....

    Richie Shaffer is the first player from the Rays 2012 draft to make the majors.
  2. Rays call up former first-round pick Richie Shaffer

    The Heater

    BOSTON — 1B/3B Richie Shaffer has slugged his way to the big leagues.

    The Rays said they expect to call up Shaffer, their 2012 top draft pick who has hit 23 homers this season between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, to make his debut tonight against the White Sox.

    Shaffer was removed from the Bulls game in the seventh inning Sunday, getting word of his pending promotion and hugs from teammates....

    Rays prospect Richie Shaffer is playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs. We're writing an update on the progress of his career.

Credit Dennis Maffezzoli/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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  3. Rays-White Sox preview

    The Heater

    Rays at White Sox

    When/where: 8:10 tonight; U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Nathan Karns (6-5, 3.37)

    WHITE SOX: LH Jose Quintana (6-9, 3.52)

    On Karns: Coming off strong Monday start vs. Tigers, retiring first 11 and working into seventh, allowing three hits, one run. Has made 15 starts allowing two or fewer runs, eight with three or fewer hits. Is 0-1, 5.73 in two starts vs. Sox....

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox poses for a portrait during Photo Day on February 28, 2015 at Camelback Ranch-Glendale in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
  4. UPDATED: Richie Shaffer called up, starting for Rays tonight

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:53: Shaffer is in the lineup, playing 1B and hitting sixth.

    UPDATE, 2:29: The Rays have made the move official, Shaffer has been called up, Moore optioned to Triple-A.

    DEVELOPING:   Slugging prospect 1B/3B Richie Shaffer is expected to be called up Monday to make his big-league debut with the Rays in Chicago.

    Shaffer, the Rays top pick in the 2012 draft, has had a breakout season, hitting 23 home runs between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.

     "I can't even begin to describe the feeling,'' he told the Tampa Bay Times from Durham.  "It hasn't really set in. Right now, I'm actually under control a little bit. It probably will really hit me when I get on the plane (today).''...

  5. Rays rally to salvage finale against Red Sox (w/video)

    The Heater

    BOSTON — Okay, so not everything worked out perfectly for the Rays on Sunday afternoon.

    James Loney was doing the postgame interview with Todd Kalas as one of the stars in the 4-3 win over Boston when Chris Archer made the now-standard move of dousing him with a cooler of water. But with David DeJesus traded, Archer needs a new splash partner, and fellow starter Erasmo Ramirez, armed with a cooler full of Gatorade, wasn't quite up to the task....

    Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier slides into third base with a triple against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) BXF109
  6. Rays rally and hang on to beat Red Sox 4-3

    Blog

     A couple of clutch hits and the Rays left town feeling a lot better about themselves.

      Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney knocked in eighth-inning runs to lead the Rays to a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Red Sox on Sunday.

         After six solid innings, and a career-high matching 113 pitches from Jake Odorizzi, the Rays used Xavier Cedeno and Steve Geltz in the seventh, Jake McGee in the eighth and Brad Boxberger to close it for his 26th save.

       The Rays won for just the sixth time since the All-Star break, and 12th time in their last 36 games, improving to 52-54.

       The Rays took the early lead, when Brandon Guyer, who looks to get more playing time with Steven Souza Jr. out four-six weeks with a fractured left hand, led off with a full-count homer against Sox starter Wade Miley.

        But the Sox came right back with a pair of runs on two two-out hits off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi.

        Xander Bogaerts singled, then stole second with no throw from catcher Rene Rivera. That was costly when Hanley Ramirez doubled, as Bogaerts came around to score. Mike Napoli followed with a single to make it 2-1.

        The Sox pushed the lead to 3-1 in the third after Odorizzi hit Bogaerts with one out. David Ortiz lashed a double off the Green Monster, Bogaerts came all the way around to score as the ball caromed off the wall so hard third baseman Evan Longoria picked it up about halfway out.

       The Rays got back to within 3-2 in the fourth when Cabrera singled with one out and Loney doubled to right.

       The Rays had a promising opportunity to at least tie in the seventh when Kevin Kiermaier hustled his way to a two-out triple that ended Miley's day.

        The Sox brought in another lefty, Robbie Ross Jr., and the Rays pinch-hit Curt Casali for .176-hitting Rene Rivera, but Casali was hit by pitch. Guyer then worked a full-count walk to load the bases.

       Rather than bring in a right-hander and face one of the Rays better lefty pinch-hitters, John Jaso or Grady Sizemore, the Sox stuck with Ross, preferring he face Joey Butler. And that strategy worked, as Butler went down swinging, leaving him 9-for-his-last 65.

       The Rays got another shot and rallied for two in the eighth off Junichi Tazawa. Evan Longoria got them started with a double high off the Green Monster. With one out, Cabrera ripped a pitch that one-hopped the rightfield fence for a ground-rule double, scoring Longoria as the tying run. James Loney followed with a single to center soft enough for Cabrera to score.

       The Rays left after the game for Chicago, where they open a three-game series with the White Sox on  Monday night. Nathan Karns will be on the mound for the Rays, lefty Jose Quintana for the White Sox....

  7. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox, trying to regroup

    Blog

    UPDATE, 12;20: Cash said they will stick with a four-man rotation for now, taking advantage of several upcoming off-days and rolling at least until Aug. 18 without needing another, assuming no doubleheaders due to rainouts.

    UPDATE, 12:04: Souza is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, with the Rays planning to mix and match in RF and LF in his absence. Brandon Guyer and Mikie Mahtook figure to get most of the additional playing time. ... Cash said Matt Moore took news of his demotion extremely well, and there is no timetable for his reutrn. The key is that he gets his innings and gets back to his top form....

  8. Rays' Steven Souza Jr. heads to DL with hand fracture

    The Heater

    BOSTON — As if losing another frustrating, mistake-marred game —11-7 Saturday to the Red Sox —wasn't bad enough, the Rays lost another key part of their lineup.

    OF Steven Souza Jr. is headed back to the disabled list after his left hand was fractured when he was hit by a Joe Kelly pitch.

    To replace Souza, the Rays will recall OF Mikie Mahtook, who was called up Friday, got two hits and was sent down after the game. Because there is a DL move involved, Mahtook doesn't have to spend the usual 10 days in the minors before being recalled....

    Steven Souza Jr. is headed to the disabled list with a left hand fracture after being hit by a pitch.
  9. Rays-Red Sox preview

    The Heater

    Rays at Red Sox

    When/where: 1:35 today; Fenway Park, Boston

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 2.85)

    RED SOX: LH Wade Miley (8-9, 4.65)

    On Odorizzi: Coming off solid six-inning, one-run outing vs. Tigers. Is 2-1, 3.86 in four starts since returning from DL, missing a month with oblique strain. Is 2-2, 3.36 in seven starts vs. Red Sox; 1-2, 5.68 in four at Fenway....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Jake Odorizzi #23 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)
  10. Rays Tales: Get to know catcher Curt Casali

    The Heater

    The Rays over their 18 seasons have used 29 catchers, running the gamut from Ali Solis to Gregg Zaun, with a lot of Toby Hall — behind the plate a franchise-most 578 times — in the middle. Plus a quick 2005 cameo by current manager Kevin Cash.

    Worth pondering is whether the latest, Curt Casali, could turn out to be one of their greatest....

    Associated Press
  11. Matt Moore to be optioned to Triple-A

    Blog

    LHP Matt Moore will be optioned to Triple-A by the Rays.

    Moore struggled again on Saturday, lasting only 3 innings against the Red Sox, and is 1-3, 8.78 ERA in six games since coming off the disabled list following April 2014 Tommy John surgery.

    With several off-days in their schedule, the Rays will use a four-man rotation for now.

    The plan is for Moore to get his innings in without impacting the big-league team, which is trying to stay in the AL wild-card race....

  12. Souza goes on DL with fractured left hand

    Blog

    OF Steven Souza Jr. is headed back to the disabled list after X-rays showed a fracture in his left hand after being hit by a pitch on Saturday.

    Souza was hit by a Joe Kelly pitch in the fifth inning and went to the ground in pain, but after some attention from the athletic training staff stayed in the game. But the pain increased as he left the game in the sixth and went for X-rays which revealed the fracture....

  13. Matt Moore headed to minors after Rays lose to Red Sox

    The Heater

    BOSTON — The Rays decided they had seen enough of Matt Moore for now as well.

    The struggling left-hander will be optioned to Triple-A Durham after another rough outing Saturday in his return from April 2014 Tommy John surgery, lasting only three innings in an 11-7 loss to the Red Sox.

    In six starts since coming off the disabled list, Moore is 1-3 with an 8.78 ERA without working more than five innings in a game. He has allowed 58 of the 132 batters he has faced in 262/3 innings to reach base....

    Xander Bogaerts slides head-first into third base on a steal in the second inning as Evan Longoria takes the throw.
  14. Moore struggles again, Rays lose again, 11-7 to Sox

    Blog

      BOSTON - Another ragged start by Matt Moore put the Rays in an early hole Saturday as they lost to the Red Sox 11-7.

       Moore, in his sixth outing since returning from April 2014 Tommy John surgery, allowed six runs while lasting only three innings. Of the 19 batters he faced, 10 reached base, and several of the nine he got out hit the ball quite hard and somewhat far.

       In six starts, Moore is now 1-3 with an 8.78 ERA.

        Down 6-0, the Rays (51-54 overall), battled back to within 6-4 and then to 7-6, but reliever Steve Geltz allowed the Red Sox to tag on two runs in the sixth.

       Geltz walked David Ortiz to start the inning and Travis Shaw with two outs, threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners then allowed a single to Rusney Castillo that scored two.

        The Rays, as usual, did not convert on several scoring opportunities.

        Their most glaring mistake came in the top of the sixth. Down 7-4, they got one run when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a double and Kevin Kiermaier singled him in. Kiermaier got to second on a wild pitch and then John Jaso walked with one out.

        Kiermaier then made an aggressive mistake, breaking to steal third and getting thrown out. The Rays challenged the call as it looked like Kiermaier may have gotten his hand around the tag, as the replay was shown on the video board Kiermaier stood on third flashing a safe sign. But it proved to be only wishful thinking as the replay officials said the call stood, and he was out.

       That became a bigger deal when Brandon Guyer, pinch-hitting for Steven Souza Jr., who left the game with a bruised left hand, laced a double. Rather than two runs, the Rays got only one, Jaso scoring from first, and 7-6 was as close as they got.

       Travis Shaw hit a two-run homer off Kirby Yates in the eighth, his second of a memorable day.

      The Rays wrap up the series with the Red Sox on Sunday at 1:35 p.m., with Jake Odorizzi on the mound against Sox lefty Wade Miley.


     
     
    ...

  15. For starters, Rays at Red Sox, with Moore on the mound

    Blog

    UPDATE, 12:24: The Rays revealed a change they made in their pitching rotation, with RHP Jake Odorizzi now starting on Sunday vs. the Red Sox and RHP Nathan Karns on Monday at Chicago. Manager Kevin Cash said the change was made for several reasons - giving Karns an extra day's rest, keeping Odorizzi on a five-day schedule, having better matchups going forward. Also, it separates Odorizzi and RHP Chris Archer in the rotation....