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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. As spring training nears, Rays hope to tweak roster

    The Heater

    For most of the past three months, the Rays roster has been under massive renovation, with 15 players dropped from the 40-man roster and a half-dozen potentially key pieces brought in.

    Now, with the calendar flipping to February and the countdown to spring training measured in days, baseball operations president Matt Silverman and staff are looking to make a final few small moves along the lines of what he initially suggested when taking over in mid October....

    Matt Silverman, baseball operations president for the Tampa Bay Rays, said Friday afternoon there is "good momentum" toward reaching stadium deal, despite Thursday's failed City Council vote. [Times]
  2. Rays sign reliever Belisario to minor-league deal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays added a potentially interesting piece to their bullpen in signing Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal. They are also likely to add to their middle infield depth by signing Alexi Casilla to a minor-league deal as well.

    Belisario, 32, had an impressive run as a hard-throwing member of the Dodgers bullpen for several years, then struggled last season with the White Sox, posting a 5.16 ERA. He was reported last week to be close to a deal with the Blue Jays but had been talking to the Rays and might have seen them as offering a better opportunity....

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 27: Ronald Belisario #54 of the Chicago White Sox delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning of the game on July 27, 2014 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the White Sox 4-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
  3. Rays sign Ronald Belisario, close to adding Alexi Casilla


    The Rays have signed veteran RH reliever Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal.

    He will come to spring training and compete for one of the two open spots in their bullpen. He was previously with the Dodgers and spent last season with the White Sox, going 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA and 8 saves.

    They are also likely to sign veteran INF Alexi Casilla, who would join the field competing for a middle infield spot. ...

  4. Tim Raines heads Ted Williams Museum inductees

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tim Raines should be pleased to be inducted into the Ted Williams Museum Hitters Hall of Fame tonight, a reward for a 23-year career that saw him pile up 2,605 hits and win a batting title while making seven All-Star teams.

    But it's understandable that Raines may have his eye on greater fame.

    His candidacy for the actual Hall of Fame has become a major element of the annual election discussion and debate, his vote total increasing to 55 percent as he heads into his final two years of eligibility to get to the needed 75....

    Tim Raines
  5. New baseball commissioner optimistic about Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Though talks between the Rays and St. Petersburg officials on the stadium issue are again stalled — at least publicly — since the failed vote, new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred spoke encouragingly Friday about a new facility and the Tampa Bay market overall.

    Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and he shares that view....

    Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and he shares that view. [The New York Times]
  6. Rays to again provide uniforms for area T-ball leagues


    The Rays for the second year will provide jerseys and caps to more than 5,500 T-ball players and coaches throughout the Tampa Bay area and all the way down to Charlotte County, and conduct several clinics.

    The program launches next weekend, with the distribution of uniforms and staging of several clinics. New Rays manager Kevin Cash, a product of Tampa's Northside Little League, will address a coaches' clinic on Saturday Feb. 7  at the Trop, and Rays pitchers Grant Balfour and Jake Odorizzi will conduct clinics for players on Sunday, Feb. 8....

    A sample of the T-ball jerseys created by Majestic Athletic.
  7. New MLB commissioner Rob Manfred encouraged, optimistic about Rays stadium situation


    UPDATE, 2:46: Sternberg said he and Manfred are very much on the same page: "The new commissioner is in tune with my feelings and intentions. I stand behind his characterization.''

    The new commisioner is in tune with my feelings and intentions. I stand behind his characterization.

    DEVELOPING: Though talks between the Rays and St. Petersburg officials on the stadium issue are at a standstill after the failed vote, the view from new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred's office in New York is encouraging about a new facility and the Tampa Bay market overall....

    Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and that he shares that view.
  8. Rays have private workout for Cuban prospect Moncada


    The Rays most likely can't afford to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but they took a look at him Wednesday Thursday during a private workout at the Trop anyway.

    Moncada showed impressive power in front of a group of team scouts and officials, including baseball operations president Matt Silverman and manager Kevin Cash,

    Still awaiting clearance to sign with an MLB team, Moncada, 19, is expected to get a deal worth at least  $30- to $40-million. He has worked out for several other teams, a list that reportedly includes the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Padres, Rangers and Brewers, per's Jesse Sanchez, with others interested....

  9. Rays non-roster inviitees to spring training


    Here are the non-roster invitees announced as of Jan. 29 by the Rays, with more expected:

    RHP Jhan Marinez

    LHP Everett Teaford

    C Mayo Acosta

    C Bobby Wilson

    1B Allan Dykstra

    INF Juan Francisco

    INF/OF Eugenio Velez

    OF Corey Brown

    OF Joey Butler

  10. ESPN's Keith Law ranks Rays farm system 23rd again


    UPDATE, 5:29: Only two Rays made Law's overall list of top 100 prospects, C Justin O'Conner at No. 78 and SS Daniel Robertson at No. 83.

    DEVELOPING: Though Rays officials feels they have made significant additions to their farm system via the series of off-season trades, ESPN's Keith Law is apparently not impressed.

    Law released his annual pre-spring rankings Wednesday and had the Rays 23rd, the same spot they were last year; the Cubs are No. 1....

    Baseball America ranks shortstop Willy Adames as the Rays' third-best prospect.
  11. Rays' Chris Archer finds South Africa a stimulating trip

    The Heater


    Rays starter Chris Archer shared as much knowledge as he could during a 12-day December visit to South Africa, teaching young kids about baseball in general and providing teenage players with specifics about pitching technique, training methods and other such tips. • But as Archer reflected this week on the Major League Baseball-organized Ambassador trip, it seemed clear that he gained — intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically — much more than he gave. • Most rewarding? • "Just their overall love and passion for life," Archer said. "We all get caught up in things, everybody around is on social media and using technology, but they don't need that to be stimulated. It was just like reiterating that the simplest things are the greatest things in life. … ...

    Rays pitcher Chris Archer was part of a Major League Baseball trip to South Africa where they worked with youths. [Major League Baseball]
  12. Matt Moore "in a good spot" after throwing from mound


    LHP Matt Moore reached the next significant milestone in his recovery from Tommy John surgery Tuesday, throwing off the mound for the first time.

    Moore made 15 throws from about halfway up the bullpen mound at the Trop and said it couldn't have gone better.

    "It felt pretty good," he said. "I've done a lot of dry reps and a lot of towel stuff (where he goes through his pitching motion with a towel in his hand rather than a ball). To feel on line going toward home plate and getting on the hill, it was good to have that feeling."...

  13. New commissioner Manfred willing to help Rays, but says stadium is a "local issue"


     While calling it a "local issue,'' new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he will do whatever asked to help the Rays, as well as the Oakland A's, get their stadium situations resolved.

      "I think it's always important to bear in mind that stadium construction is fundamentally a local issue - the owner, the local government, the local communities have to be committed to the project,'' Manfred told MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.
    "I share your view that Tampa and Oakland are situations that need to be addressed, and believe me I will be making myself available to both owners, both clubs to play whatever role they want me to play in helping them get their situations resolved because I do think both of them are really important to the game.''

      Manfred previously spoke highly of Montreal, which has been speculated on as a potential relocation site, telling the New York Times it is "a great city" and that, "I think with the right set of circumstances and the right facility, it's possible.''...

  14. Rays broadcaster Staats breaks ribs in boating accident

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Dewayne Staats definitely didn't enjoy this outcome.

    What was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway to the Bahamas turned into a painful experience for the Rays TV broadcaster, who sustained four broken ribs in a boating accident.

    "If management would trust me to do a game on painkillers, I think I could do fine," Staats said Tuesday. "I'm doing pretty good, all things considered."...

  15. Kelleys and Maddons hosting wounded warriors for Gasparilla

    The Heater

    TAMPA — Jill Kelley is back in the Gasparilla party business.

    The Tampa socialite, who previously hosted events that attracted some top military brass from nearly MacDill Air Force base, including Gen. David Petraeus, is co-hosting a party Saturday with her Bayshore Boulevard neighbors, Jaye and Joe Maddon, the former Rays and now Cubs manager.

    Among the guests of honor will be two dozen wounded warriors, service personnel who were injured in the line duty. "It's the greatest honor to share this memorable day with our country's bravest heroes — our wounded warriors," said Kelley, whose last Gasparilla event was in 2012, before the scandal that led to Petraeus' downfall and her lawsuit that the government invaded her privacy....