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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. Mahtook surprised by trade, excited by chance to be Tigers CF


    OF Mikie Mahtook has been working out in preparation for another spring training with the Rays in Port Charlotte, already set to share a rental home with Brad Miller and Curt Casali, when he got the surprising news Wednesday that he'd been traded to the Tigers.

    "Weird is probably a good way to describe it,'' Mahtook said Thursday from Detroit. "I Was not expecting it. Obviously I had no idea it was coming. I wasn't anticipating anything. I was just going about my off-season like I normally do, getting ready for spring training. Then I got the phone call. And then it got really weird.''...

    Mikie Mahtook goes from battling with newly acquired Mallex Smith for a spot as a reserve with the Rays to the chance to competing for Detroit's starting centerfield job.
  2. Rays keep same game times for 2017


    The Rays announced their 2017 game times, with the same framework they had last year - most weekday games at 7:10, Saturday games at 4:10 or 6:10, Sunday games at 1:10.

    There are a few exceptions, including seven weekday matinees, most on days when they are headed out of town after the game:

    Thursday 4/10 vs. Tigers, 1:10
    Thursday 5/11 vs. Royals, 1:10
    Thursday 5/25 vs. Angels, 1:10
    Wednesday 6/21 vs. Reds 12:10
    Wednesday 7/26 vs. Orioles 12:10
    Thursday 8/24 vs. Blue Jays 1:10.
    Wednesday 9/6 vs, Twins 1:10

    Also of note, the Rays on June 10 will host MLB's first scheduled DH since 2011, when they host the A's with a 2:10 first pitch, and a single admission for both games.

    The Rays play what is actually the first game of the entire major-league schedule with they open against the Yankees on Sunday, April 2, with a 1:10 first pitch....

    The Rays 2017 schedule.
  3. New Hall of Famer Raines once eyed Gators football career


    Tim Raines could have been a Florida Gator running back rather than one of baseball's newest Hall of Famers.

    Starring in football and baseball at Sanford's Seminole High, while also running track, Raines wasn't sure which sport to pursue. Drafted in the fifth round by the Montreal Expos as a switch-hitting shortstop in 1977, he decided to give baseball a chance first.

    "When this journey first started, I wasn't really sure baseball was the sport I should have chosen,'' Raines said on a Hall conference call Wednesday night. "I figured I would start out at a young age and see if I was good enough to stay in baseball. I was going to give myself actually two years. Give myself two years, see what happened. If things worked out I would continue to play baseball. If things didn't work out I was going to walk on at the University of Florida and play football....

    Tim Raines poses for a photograph after a TV interview Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Goodyear, Ariz. shortly after being elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion.
  4. Bagwell, Raines, Ivan Rodriguez make Baseball Hall of Fame


    The sometimes rocky road that Tim Raines took from the sleepy Central Florida town of Sanford to a 23-year career in the major leagues now extends to Cooperstown, N.Y., with his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

    Longtime Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell and defensively dominant catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez also surpassed the needed 332 votes — 75 percent of 442 cast — by veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America....

    HOUSTON- AUGUST 23:  Infielder Jeff Bagwell #5 of the Houston Astros waits for a Philadelphia Phillies pitch during the game at Minute Maid Park on August 23, 2004 in Houston, Texas. The Astros won 8-4. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
  5. Rays trade outfielder Mahtook to Tigers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Needing to create space on their 40-man roster, the Rays dumped another former first-round pick, trading outfielder Mikie Mahtook to the Tigers for cash or a player to be named later.

    Mahtook, 27, was the No. 31 overall pick in the 2011 draft, where the Rays had 10 of the first 60 selections and haven't had much to show for it.

    The Rays need roster space to add a pair of free agent signees, outfielder Colby Rasmus and reliever Shawn Tolleson....

    Outfielder Mikie Mahtook was a first-round pick by the Rays in the 2011 draft.
  6. Bagwell, Raines, Pudge Rodriguez elected to Baseball Hall


    Tim Raines' road from Sanford to the major leagues will now take him to Cooperstown, as the longtime outfielder was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 10th and final year of eligibility.

    Jeff Bagwell, a longtime star with the Astros, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, who redefined the catching position with his defensive skills, also received the necessary 75 percent of the votes to be inducted....

  7. Rays trade Mahtook to Tigers for cash/player to be named


    Needing to clear space on their 40-man roster, the Rays on Wednesday traded OF Mikie Mahtook to the Tigers for cash or a player to be named later.

    Mahtook, a first-round pick in the Rays mostly-disappointing 2011 draft class, played parts of the last two seasons in the majors.

    As impressive as Mahtook was during his 2015 debut, he was disappointing last season, struggling and missing time with injuries. Overall, he hit .195 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs over 65 games, making 50 starts between the three positions.

    The Rays need to make room on the 40-man roster to add free agent OF Colby Rasmus and RHP Shawn Tolleson, whose free-agent signings should be made official soon. Mahtook's role on the team was diminished with the acquisition of Mallex Smith in trade....

  8. Rays prospect Willy Adames' growing fan club includes Chris Archer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As much as the Rays talk about, focus on, and invest time and millions into acquiring and developing top position player prospects, they too often seem to be on a treadmill where they never get to the finish line.

    Willy Adames is positioned to be different.

    The 21-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic is the next great thing in the Rays organization and has provided good reasons to think he, unlike some before him, truly can live up to the hype. ...

    Edgar Caceres, infield instructor at IMG Academy, works with Tampa Bay Rays SS prospect Willy Adames in the IMG batting cage in Bradenton, Fla. on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.
  9. It's Hall of Fame day, and we take a closer look at the candidates


    Today is Hall of Fame day, with the announcement of this year's election set for 6 p.m. on MLB Network.

    Based on 235-plus released ballots, roughly half the total, it looks like OF Tim Raines, enjoying a bump of support in his final year of eligibility, and 1B Jeff Bagwell will receive the required 75 percent needed for election. Closer Trevor Hoffman and C Ivan Rodriguez, in his first year on the ballot, look to be close calls, and potentially OF Vlad Guerrero as well....

    Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell had seven 100-run/100-RBI seasons, won an MVP award (plus five other top-10 finishes) and was the 1991 Rookie of the Year.
  10. Video: Winter development camp a hit for Rays prospects


    The Rays have 25 of their top prospects - including RHP Brent Honeywell and INFs Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson - at the Trop this week for the 8th annual winter development camp. Here is a video report from photographer Will Vragovic.


  11. Rays close to deal with former Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hoping to add needed depth and experience to their bullpen, the Rays are close to finalizing a deal with former Texas closer Shawn Tolleson.

    Tolleson, 29 on Thursday, saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season, losing his closer's job, getting sent to the minors, being sidelined with a back injury then being dropped from the roster after posting a 2-2 record and 7.68 ERA with 11 saves. He is considered healthy and ready for spring training....

    ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
  12. Rays adding to bullpen, close to signing Shawn Tolleson


    The Rays are making a move to bolster their bullpen as they are close to finalizing a deal with RHP Shawn Tolleson, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    Tolleson, 29 on Thursday, saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season, losing his closer's job, getting sent to the minors, being sidelined with a back injury and then dropped from the roster.

    He elected free agency, and chose to join the Rays over several options, which included going back to Texas....

    Shawn Tolleson saved 35 games for the Rangers in 2015 but struggled through a rough 2016 season.
  13. Rays have 26 top prospects at Trop for development camp


    Spring training is still a month away, but the Rays have 26 of their top prospects at the Trop this week for a four-day winter development camp. The players will get on the football-lined field for some baseball work, but also will participate in discussions and receive guidance on training, media relations and other issues, and make several community appearances. There also will be a media interview session on Tuesday.

    Among the bigger names particiapting are INF Willy Adames, their top position prospect; RHP Brent Honeywell, the quick-rising starter prospect; INF Lucius Fox, who was acquired from the Giants in the Matt Moore deal; INF Daniel Robertson, another top advanced prospect; RHP Kevin Gadea, the Rule 5 draft pick from Seattle; and OFs Josh Lowe and Garrett Whitley, their last two first-round draft picks....

  14. Steroid-era players no longer automatic outs for some Hall of Fame voters

    The Heater

    For veteran Baseball Writers' Association of America members with the immense privilege of Hall of Fame votes, there have become two absolute truths:

    One, no matter how much time, thought, research, philosophical wrangling, intellectual tradeoffs and increasingly sinuous line drawing, and redrawing, we do, we are never quite sure we got it right.

    And two, once we tweet, blog or post to Facebook (or even share with our friends, brothers and wives), we are quickly told how absurd, asinine and awful our ballots are. Then they move on to the B-words....

    SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 3: Barry Bonds #25 of the San Francisco Giants smiles in the on deck circle before his first at bat against the San Diego Padres during their MLB game at Petco Park August 3, 2007 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
  15. Critiquing the ESPN telecasts for CFP national championship game


    While 74,000-plus fans and hundreds of accredited media enjoyed the college football national championship game live at Raymond James Stadium, the rest of us were left to watch on ESPN, and sample its multilayered MegaCast, featuring 11 options in addition to the primary telecast.

    From what we saw, they did pretty well in what several staffers called their Super Bowl.

    Here are five thoughts:...

    Alabama fans, part of the 74,512 on hand for the game, celebrate a Tide TD in the first half.