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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. Rays to honor Jose Fernandez with No. 16 jersey in dugout

    Blog

    The Rays will further honor Jose Fernandez by hanging a No. 16 jersey in their dugout for tonight's game.

    SS Alexei Ramirez, who like Fernandez left Cuba to play in the U.S., made the suggestion and is set to hang the jersey, a show of respect several teams have done.

    Fernandez, the Marlins pitcher and Alonso High grad, was killed in an early Sunday boating accident in Miami.

    The Marlins will all wear his No. 16 tonight for their home game against the Mets, then will retire the number....

  2. For starters: Rays at White Sox, facing an old friend

    Blog

    UPDATE, 6:50: The Rays will further honor Jose Fernandez tonight by hanging a No. 16 jersey in their dugout. It will be placed there by Ramirez, who similarly left Cuba to play in the majors.

    UPDATE, 6:46: Kiermaier's hand was more sore than he expected this morning, and swinging a bat would be an issue, so he is not in the linuep, but hoping to be available later tonight if needed with further treatment and eyeing a return to full duty Tuesday. ... Ramirez said it was good to be back in Chicago and see a lot of familiar faces and that it was weird to walk past the home clubhouse to the visiting side. ... Several Rays spoke of the legacy Shields left....

    James Shields will be on the mound for the White Sox.
  3. Friends, mentors remember Jose Fernandez's competitive spirit

    Ml

    Of the hundreds of pitchers Tampa's Chuck Hernandez has worked with in 30-plus years of coaching in the minors and majors, Jose Fernandez was the one he was closest with, which made Sunday's news so staggering.

    "I generally, throughout all the crazy time we've done this, been a relationship kind of guy with most of my players. And this guy was just a little farther ahead," Hernandez said Sunday. "Maybe it was because he needed it. Maybe I was more mature and adult-like, I don't know what it was. We had a special little bond. He didn't have, per se, a very strong male figure in his life. His dad wasn't around. So it was one of those things."...

    Jose Fernandez smiled constantly and loved to joke around, but those close to him say his competitive nature was off the charts.
  4. Former Marlins coach Chuck Hernandez reflects on Jose Fernandez

    Blog

    Of all the people who worked with Jose Fernandez during his pro baseball career, Tampa's Chuck Hernandez, who was his first pitching coach with the Marlins, had among the closest connections, which made Sunday's news so staggering.

    "I still really can't talk about it, it's not registering yet,'' Hernandez said. "I generally throughout all the crazy time we've done this been a relationship kind of guy with most of my players. And this guy was just a little farther ahead. Maybe it was because he needed it. Maybe I was more mature and adult-like, I don't know what it was. We had a special little bond. He didn't have, per se, a very strong male figure in his life. His dad wasn't around. So it was one of those things.''...

    Chuck Hernandez, home in Tampa for a day from working as a coach in the Braves instructional league, got an early morning call from his son with the news.
  5. Bullpen falters as Rays lose to Red Sox (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — In a ceremony before this afternoon's game, the Rays will present retiring slugger David Ortiz with a few parting gifts.

    On Saturday, they gave him and the Red Sox a bigger present, a 6-4 come-from-behind win that will lead soon to a grander celebration as the Sox, who clinched a playoff berth, close in on the American League East title.

    "Frustrating loss," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ...

    Dustin Pedroia is greeted by third-base coach Brian Butterfield after putting Boston ahead with a grand slam in the seventh.
  6. Rays say Kevin Cash has gained comfort, confidence in second year

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Ask around the Rays, from players to staff to front-office execs to principal owner Stuart Sternberg, and you hear abundantly that the biggest difference in manager Kevin Cash from his first year in charge to finishing his second is how much more comfortable he seems in the job.

    "I think we saw the real Kevin this season," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "Last year we were all learning on the fly together. This spring, he arrived with the perspective and confidence that can only be gained by experience. He was both more relaxed and more focused. The one constant is his emphasis on communication and relationship-building."...

    Kevin Cash, handing the ball to first-year closer Alex Colome, hasn’t lost the confidence of Rays upper management despite the team’s 65-89 record this season, and players feel that he has had more control of the team.
  7. Rays-Red Sox Sunday preview

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Red Sox

    1:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 1250-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $36-$325; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game time.

    Promotions: DJ Kitty toothbrush holder to kids 14 and under; Shirts Off Our Backs charity fundraiser

    Pregame ceremony: 12:55, honoring retiring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, with gifts from Rays players and organization. ...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Pitcher Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during the Rays' photo day on February 25, 2016 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
  8. Rays Tales: Key numbers tell tale of a disappointing season

    The Heater

    3-22

    The monthlong stretch that crashed their season. They trotted off the Trop turf June 15 at 31-32 after beating the Mariners 3-2 in 13 innings on Logan Morrison's walkoff walk, then went into a dizzying spiral that left them 34-54 at the All-Star break and, for all intents and purposes, done. They lost the first two after the break for good measure. During the 3-24 stretch, they hit .236 (worst in the AL) while averaging a majors-low 3.04 runs per game and posting a majors-worst 5.76 ERA....

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
  9. For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, in another tough test

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:37: Cash said one reason for Andriese's improvement has been doing a good job of following the game plan. ... Dickerson's improvement has been one of the bright spots of the final month, Cash said. ... Franklin said his previously strained left hamstring has improved enough to run the bases, and even to steal bases, but he will be limited to DH duty for now.

    Rays lineup:
    Forsythe 2b
    Kiermaier cf
    Longoria 3b
    Miller 1b
    Dickerson lf
    Franklin dh
    Mahtook rf
    Ramirez ss
    Casali c
    Andriese p

    Red Sox lineup
    Pedroia 2b
    Bogaerts ss
    Ortiz dh
    Betts rf
    Ramirez 1b
    Holt 3b
    Young lf
    Bradley cf
    Leon c
    Porcello p...

  10. Longoria wins Rays MVP, Champion award; Snell top rookie

    Blog

    Rays 3B Evan Longoria was named winner of the 2016 Don Zimmer MVP Award and the Paul C. Smith Champion Award today based on voting by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

    LHP Blake Snell was voted the outstanding rookie.

    The winners were announced at the Clutch Hitters luncheon, and will be introduced before tonight's game at the Trop.

    The champion award is given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. Longoria finished ahead of Chris Archer, who won in 2015.

    Snell got seven of the eight first-place votes for the rookie award, with C Luke Maile second.

    Longoria was a unanimous choice for his second team MVP award, finishing well ahead of RHP Alex Colome and and 2B Logan Forsythe.

    The Rays also announced their minor-league award winners, with RHP Brent Honeywell named their top pitcher and 1B Casey Gillaspie their top player....

  11. Rays-Red Sox Friday preview

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Red Sox

    7:10, Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $26-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: $15 lower-level tickets for students 18 and over; two upper-level tickets for $21 as part of Roberto Clemente Day event....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during the Rays' photo day on February 25, 2016 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
  12. Home runs are one constant in Brad Miller's Rays season

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The list of players who have hit 30 home runs for the Rays during their 19 seasons is not long.

    Evan Longoria has done it four times, Carlos Peña three, Jose Canseco, Aubrey Huff and Fred McGriff once each.

    And now, somewhat unexpectedly, Brad Miller.

    "I don't think anybody penciled in he was going to hit 30 home runs," manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's 2-0 victory over the Yankees....

    Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) with Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Tom Foley (6) in the dugout during  the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-0.
  13. Snell shows improved slider as Rays shut out Yankees

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Fueled by a sharper and harder slider, Rays rookie LHP Blake Snell turned in a much improved outing Thursday, working five solid innings in a 2-0 win over the Yankees.

    It was just the second time in his past six starts that Snell completed five innings, and the second in 18 big-league starts he didn't allow a run.

    "It definitely feels good, but at the same time I've got to keep getting better,'' Snell said. "I've got to keep seeing what I'm doing and keep pushing for quicker at-bats, (getting) deeper into the game. There's so much that I need to grab on to. I'm definitely happy about it, but also at the same time I'm looking forward to taking the good and the bad and growing.''...

    Blake Snell shows an improved slider in five solid innings.
  14. Archer pleased Rays will honor Red Sox's Ortiz

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have made it official they will honor retiring Red Sox DH David Ortiz in a ceremony before Sunday's game.

    The team said in a release the ceremony "will include parting gifts from Rays players and the Rays organization to be revealed when the festivities begin at 12:55 p.m.''

    Ortiz will be the fourth visiting player to be honored in a pregame ceremony at the Trop, joining Cal Ripken, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter....

  15. For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, with Querecuto starting at 3B

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:09: Cash said LHP Xavier Cedeno's season is over, as it doesn't make sense to get him into games now as he remains bothered by neck tightness that has sidelined him since Aug. 29. ... Querecuto was all smiles in the clubhouse, recounting how his dad woke him Tuesday with news that he was going to the major leagues and how excited he was.

    Yankees lineup:
    Gardner lf
    Ellsbury cf
    Sanchez c
    Butler dh
    Teixeira 1b
    Headley 3b
    Gregorius ss
    Hicks rf
    Solano 2b
    Cessa p...

    Juniel Querecuto will make his major-league debut starting at third base.