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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. Nathan Karns steps up to seize Rays opportunity

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Faced with an unexpected and unprecedented opportunity this spring, Rays pitcher Nathan Karns had to steel himself with all the discipline and focus that got him to this point and address the challenge head-on.

    And head up.

    "He actually said he had never held a baby before because he was always so scared," spring roommate outfielder Corey Brown said. "So my wife kind of forced it on him to hold our (5½-month old) little girl....

  2. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox and at Orioles


    UPDATE, 12:35: Casilla was released. By doing so now, the Rays give Casilla, who wasn't going to make their team, more time to seek a big-league spot elsehwere.

    The Rays had to decide today on Casilla because as what is considered an Article XXB free agent, he would receive a $100,000 bonus if not placed on the 25-man roster.

    UPDATE, 11:57: Top prospect Daniel Robertson is coming over from minor-league camp and will start for the Rays at SS in place of Alexi Casilla....

    Rays pitcher Jim Miller watches from the dugout during a March 20 game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Charlotte Sports Park. Miller will start a game on Tuesday, the last day before the Rays break camp to play the remainder of their exhibition schedule at Tropicana Field.
  3. Rays' James Loney tunes out distractions, focuses on baseball

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays first baseman James Loney is not always the quiet guy hanging out in the corner. Well-placed sources have told the Tampa Bay Times as much, and new Rays manager Kevin Cash confirmed it on Monday morning.

    "I didn't know that he was 'quiet,' " Cash said. "I would never have guessed he was 'quiet' the way he is in the dugout and the clubhouse and stuff when you're not in there."...

    James Loney says he has little interest in drawing attention to himself for doing anything other than playing baseball.
  4. Rays pare down roster, reduce bullpen competition

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Competition for the final spots in the Rays bullpen narrowed a bit after Monday's 6-6 10-inning tie with the Orioles when nonroster RHP Brandon Gomes and LHP Everett Teaford were told they won't make the opening day roster and were reassigned to minor-league camp.

    That leaves the Rays with what looks to be five candidates for three spots. RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Mike Montgomery, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and RHP Kirby Yates are still in camp, plus RHP Burch Smith, who was optioned and can be brought back....

    Brandon Gomes is reassigned to minor-league camp despite having a stellar spring, a victim of a numbers game as he isn’t on the Rays’ 40-man roster.
  5. Rays: Joey Butler calls tying home run

    The Heater

    Call him 'Babe'

    Having already been told he was sent down, OF Joey Butler came up big for the Rays on Monday with a tying three-run homer with two outs in the ninth off LHP Wesley Wright. Even better? He called his shot in the dugout. "He said, 'Do you guys want to play extras?' He looked at me and (bench coach Tom) Foley and said it," manager Kevin Cash relayed. "Whack, first pitch." Butler shrugged it off. "I kind of had an idea what I was looking for," he said. "I guess I was just feeling it."...

  6. Rays whittle roster, reassigning Gomes, Teaford, six others


    The Rays moved a step closer to settling their final roster Monday by reassigning two of the non-roster pitchers competing for jobs, RHP Brandon Gomes and LHP Everett Teaford, plus six others.

    Also told they will not make the opening day roster were C Mayo Acosta, OF Corey Brown, OF Joey Butler, RHP Jhan Marinez, RHP Jim Miller and LHP Jordan Norberto.

    Manager Kevin Cash said the conversation was toughest with Gomes, who allowed one run in sevem spring appearances, striking out 15....

  7. For starters, Rays vs. Orioles


    UPDATE, 10:15: Raul Ibanez, who took himself out of the running for the Rays managerial job to spend more time with his family, has been hired as a studio analyst by Fox, reports.

    UPDATE, 10:03: RHP Alex Cobb (forearm tendinitis) played catch again today and it went well.

    LHP Matt Moore (TJ surgery) and LHP Jake McGee (arthroscopic elbow surgery) will throw bullpens on Tuesday....

    Grant Balfour pitches against the Yankees last week in a spring training game in Port Charlotte.
  8. Week before opener, Rays have several roster questions

    The Heater

    FORT MYERS — Opening day is a week from today, and filling out the starting rotation is among the topics the Rays have to address as they have about a half-dozen spots overall to settle.

    With three of their projected five starters (Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Alex Colome) sidelined by injury and illness, the Rays are looking at internal and at least a few external options to join Chris Archer, Nathan Karns and Jake Odorizzi....

    Rays pitcher Matt Andriese, who is scheduled to start today against the Orioles, is having an impressive spring and has made himself the top candidate for the fourth spot in a rotation that will be missing three pitchers at the start of the season.
  9. Rays: Kevin Cash unconcerned about overexposure to Orioles

    The Heater

    If you knew that they knew …

    The Rays have games today and Tuesday against the same Orioles team they play for real next week, but manager Kevin Cash doesn't see it as a big deal either way. "I guess there's an advantage if you can pick a pitcher up doing something, tipping a pitch or showing a tendency," Cash said. "But who's to say he's not intentionally doing that, showing that tendency, and then he's going to totally reverse it come the first series."...

  10. Rays expect Brad Boxberger to fill in as closer

    The Heater

    FORT MYERS — With returning closer Jake McGee sidelined for the first month of the season as he recovers from left elbow surgery, the Rays say they plan to use several pitchers in that role.

    But expect RHP Brad Boxberger to get a significant share.

    "He will be in a lot of meaningful situations," manager Kevin Cash said. "With some other guys, but for what Box did last year and the confidence we have in him, I would definitely anticipate him pitching in those leverage situations."...

    Brad Boxberger, who pitched a 1-2-3 first inning against Red Sox starters, says he’d be eager for a chance to fill in at closer.
  11. For starters: Rays at Red Sox


    UPDATE, 5:50: The Rays lost 3-2 in 10 innings to the Red Sox.

    UPDATE, 8:53: LHP Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) said he continues to feel better and though his scheduled is set "in pencil" he expects to be back pitching for the Rays sometime in April, and there would have to be a setback for him not to be.

    RHP Alex Cobb  said he feels good the day after his first throwing session, is off today (with Grand Prix duties in St. Pete), and plays catch again Monday...

  12. 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
  13. 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.
  14. 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....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning during the Spring Training game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Fla. on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. /
  15. 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.