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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 use Saturday to set up rotation for start of season

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — After having their top three starters all pitch Saturday, the Rays are positioned to set up the front part of their rotation, with RHP Chris Archer set to be followed by RHPs Nathan Karns and Jake Odorizzi in the opening series vs. Baltimore.

    With injuries sidelining ace RHP Alex Cobb and No. 3 LHP Drew Smyly, the Rays used Saturday to re-set the rotation. Archer and Odorizzi both pitched in minor-league games and did well, while Karns struggled over four innings in a 9-6 loss to Boston....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns delivers against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning during an exhibition spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 28, 2015, in Port Charlotte, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) FLBA101
  2. Rays: Red Sox manager John Farrell praises Kevin Cash

    The Heater

    High praise for Cash

    Boston manager John Farrell said he sensed from Kevin Cash's playing days with the Red Sox that he had the knowledge and personal skills to be a manager. "He had a way to really affect his teammates," Farrell said Saturday. "That speaks more to his personality and thick skin and general confidence to speak his mind." Farrell recalled Cash rejoining the Sox in July 2010 in trade from Houston's Triple-A team and "calling out David Ortiz the moment he walked in. I'm thinking this is pretty good, a guy that was just traded for out of Triple A came in and made a statement as he walked in the clubhouse … letting him know he was back."...

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) photographed at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. for the 2015 Meet The Rays feature.
  3. Making a difference in world a mission for Rays' Chris Archer

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Like other talented young pitchers on the front end of promising careers, Rays opening day starter Chris Archer hopes to help his team win lots of games over the next few years. Getting a few All-Star selections, making a couple of World Series appearances and earning a Cy Young Award or two would be even better.

    Then Archer wants to get on to the really important stuff....

    Chris Archer
  4. DeJesus Dilemma vexes Rays as season nears

    The Heater

    Most of the Rays problems' this spring are related to filling holes created by injury/illness to INF Nick Franklin and starters Alex Cobb, Alex Colome and Drew Smyly.

    But they also face the DeJesus Dilemma — deciding what to do with veteran OF David DeJesus.

    He doesn't fit in their lineup, has not drawn serious trade interest and is unlikely to be simply cut given that he's guaranteed $6 million....

    David DeJesus has been showing good humor while being in a kind of limbo with the Rays, who likely would prefer to trade him rather than pay him the $5 million that he’s owed this year.
  5. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox


    UPDATE, 12:04: Cobb said his throwng session went well, that it's back to "square one but I don't think there's as many squares,'' and he expects to be back pitching for the Rays sometime in April. He said there was some tightness, as he would expect after 10 days off, comparing it to the first time he throws in the off-season, and said he was glad to get the first step back out of the way....

  6. Rays: 'Dolphin Tale' actor to sing opening day anthem

    The Heater

    Dolphin tune

    The Rays' opening day national anthem will be performed by Cozi Zuehlsdorff, a 16-year-old singer/actor who appeared in the Dolphin Tale movies filmed in Clearwater. Zuehlsdorff wrote and performed the song Brave Souls for Dolphin Tale 2.

    Number of the day

    10 Consecutive home-opener sellouts if the Rays sell out this year's, as they anticipate, though tickets remain for the April 6 game against the Orioles...

  7. Odorizzi, Karns to follow Archer in Rays' rotation

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said Friday that RHP Jake Odorizzi and RHP Nathan Karns will start Games 2 and 3 of the season. But the order, primarily based on matchups going forward, hasn't been determined.

    "Other than off-days, this is the time you can kind of set for matchups," Cash said. "We don't have five lined-up starters ready to go out of the gate, so we might as well do our homework and pick the best advantages for the pitchers and our team."...

    Jake Odorizzi will start the second game of the season. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  8. Vince Naimoli to throw out first pitch at Rays opener

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays are making an unexpected nod to their past in selecting original owner Vince Naimoli to throw out the first pitch before the April 6 season opener.

    Naimoli was chosen in acknowledgement of the team's 20th birthday.

    "We are glad to have Vince Naimoli throw out the first pitch as we recognize 20 years since Tampa Bay was awarded a major-league franchise," current principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Vince led the effort to bring baseball here and has continued to enrich the community with his charitable giving."...

    Vince Naimoli led the group that won the franchise in March 1995.
  9. Vince Naimoli to throw out first pitch at Rays opener


    The Rays are making an unexpected nod to their past in picking previous team owner Vince Naimoli to throw out the first pitch prior to the April 6 season opener.

    Naimoli was chosen to acknowledge the 20-year anniversary of the franchise being awarded.

    "We are glad to have Vince Naimoli throw out the first pitch as we recognize 20 years since Tampa Bay was awarded a major league franchise,'' current principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Vince led the effort to bring baseball here and has continued to enrich the community with his charitable giving.''...

    Vince Naimoli was chosen to acknowledge the 20-year anniversary of the franchise being awarded. [Times files (2008)]
  10. For starters, Rays at Orioles, weather permitting


    The Rays and Orioles got 3 1/2 innings in at Ed Smith Stadium before storms arrived from the coast. LHP  Everett Teaford, vying for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, and left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery logged two innings each.

    Baltimore led 4-3 when play was stopped. Facing the Orioles' de facto opening day lineup, Teaford gave up a first-pitch home run to LF Nolan Reimold,  then retired the next six batters he faced....

    Crews prepare to cover the field at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
  11. Commissioner Rob Manfred calm on Rays stadium issue

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rob Manfred did lots of talking Thursday during the first visit by a commissioner to Rays spring training camp in 18 years, taking questions from players on pace-of-game changes and marketing initiatives, meeting with top team officials and conducting a series of interviews.

    The one answer he didn't have was what Major League Baseball will do if the Rays don't make progress soon in addressing their biggest problem, the lack of a new ballpark....

    Rob Manfred
  12. Four more cuts: Belisario, Bellatti, Stowell, Velez


    The Rays continue to further whittle their spring roster, cutting the number to 44 by reassigning veteran RHP Ronald Belisario, prospect RHP Andrew Bellatti, RHP Bryce Stowell and INF Eugenio Velez.

    More moves are possible Friday as teams can start putting players on the 15-day DL, which also allows for optioned players to be recsalled.

    Belisario, who was sidelined for nearly a month after reporting to camp with a fractured left shoulbder, is expected to be part of the Rays bullpen at some point this season, manager Kevin Cash said, noting his ability to get a lot of ground balls. But because Belisario is just starting to throw bullpen sessions the Rays sent him down to keep preparing....

  13. Rays make it official, it's Archer for starter


    The Rays made the obvious official today in naming Chris Archer their opening day starter to replace injured Alex Cobb.

    Archer, who was to start the second game, became the obvious choice once Cobb was sidelined.

    "I'm excited for sure,'' Archer said. "Not excited that Cobb and Smyly and Colome are all three out. I know Cobb was ready to take the ball. This is just a temporary thing.''...

    Chris Archer, who was to start the second game, became the obvious choice once Alex Cobb was sidelined.
  14. MLB commissioner Manfred says stadium is Rays' biggest issue, calls on 'local government' to help


    New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said today the lack of a new stadium is the biggest issue facing the Rays and called on local government to provide assistance in resolving the situation.

    "You have to conclude that the stadium issue is the key issue because the Rays have put a great product on the field consistently for a really long period of time,'' Manfred said during a visit to Rays camp this morning. "It's not a situation where you can blame a lack of support on the fact you don't have a good product. (Baseball operations president) Matt (Silverman), (principal owner) Stu (Sternberg), the whole Rays team has done a fantastic job in really difficult circumstances putting a competitive product on the field.''

    While Manfred said "the good news" for Tampa Bay area fans was that Sternberg "remains committed to the idea that the Rays should be here,'' he did put the onus on local government leaders - though he didn't specify St. Petersburg or Tampa - to help.

    "From our perspective it is very difficult to get a new stadium done without cooperation, help, assistance from local government,'' Manfred said. "We're hoping - we're hoping - that Stuart gets that kind of help so that they can get a facility that will keep the Rays and keep them competitive for the long term.''

    Manfred said he will follow Sternberg's lead on the best route and has "no firm timetable" for action, but did say, "Obviously there are 30 teams and it's in everyone's best interests to have 30 strong franchises, and our markets have to participate in making sure that we have major-league quality facilities everywhere.''

    Manfred also said "it's always a concern when we have a franchise that doesn't have the support in terms of attendance, sponsorships, all the revenue streams that are necessary to keep a team competitive. We want all 30 teams to be competitive franchises and obviously local support is the key to that. So it's a big concern for us.''

    Manfred says the Athletics and Rays stadium issues are  "1 and 1-A, they're a single entry in my mind.''...

    New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talks with Ray pitcher Chris Archer.
  15. For starters: Rays vs. Yankees


    UPDATE, 12:30: Greg Auman with an update from manager Kevin Cash's pregame session with the media.

    -- Right-hander Ronald Belisario, coming back from a left shoulder fracture, threw a "really good bullpen," Cash said. "He's going to help us this year, for sure," said Cash, who likes him as a ground-ball pitcher.

    -- The latest on LHP Drew Smyly, recovering from left shoulder tendinitis, is "all good. Everything was good." His next step is another bullpen session, then they'll go from there....