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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. Live from Port Charlotte: Day 3 of live BP


    DEVELOPING: Morning fog has cleared here at the Charlotte Sports Park, and the Rays are headed out for the third of four days of live batting practice in advance of Thursday's exhibition opener.

    Among the pitchers scheduled to throw today are RHP Alex Cobb, the likely opening day starter; RHP Nathan Karns, one of the leading candidates for the No. 5 starter's job; and two of the hardest throwers in camp, RHP Jose Dominguez and RHP Jhan Marinez....

    Nathan Karns will start the exhibition opener on Thursday vs. the Orioles.
  2. Rays' Bobby Wilson bidding for job with hometown team

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Bobby Wilson always has tried to have reasonable expectations.

    Starring roles at Seminole High and St. Petersburg College were enough to get him drafted and signed by the Angels. But he went off to pro ball with meager aspirations and is proud of a career that thus far includes three full seasons as a backup catcher in Anaheim and small parts of three others in the majors....

    Bobby Wilson is a Seminole High and St. Petersburg College product.
  3. Mike Montgomery moving to bullpen in bid to make Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — LHP Mike Montgomery is moving to the bullpen with the idea that it could get him to the major leagues sooner.

    With two potential open spots in the pen — and with their top lefty, Jake McGee, out the first month — the Rays will look at Montgomery working in relief this spring.

    "We felt his best chance to impact us was to get him in some relief roles," manager Kevin Cash said....

    Mike Montgomery, a starter throughout his minor-league career, says he’d expect a “seamless” transition to the bullpen.
  4. Rays: Guyer in awe of MMA star Rousey

    The Heater

    Rousey respect

    OF Brandon Guyer, the Rays' mixed martial arts and UFC expert, had even more respect for Ronda Rousey after her 14-second title defense against Cat Zingano. "I thought that was going to be her toughest test," Guyer said. "Like people are saying, she's the Mike Tyson of MMA right now. … She's a legend." Guyer has done some MMA training but has no interest in a firsthand experience with Rousey. "I wouldn't want to try," he said. "I'm not afraid to admit it, she would probably kick my (butt)."...

    Getty Images
  5. Live from Port Charlotte: Day 2 of live BP


    UPDATE, 1:04: The Rays set their rotation for the first three exhibition games, with RHP Nathan Karns starting the Thursday opener vs. Baltimore, RHP Matt Andriese on Friday vs. Minnesota and RHP Alex Cobb on Saturday vs. Pittsburgh in Bradenton.

    Karns and Andriese are two of the candidates for the open spot in the rotation at the start of the season, along with RHP Alex Colome, who remains delayed by visa issues in the Dominican Republic. RHP Burch Smith is another possibility for that role....

  6. Rays prospect Andrew Bellatti reflects on fatal crash, forgiving widow

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — His words were about the life that was lost.

    Her words were about the life that should be saved.

    If it was by the grace of God that Andrew Bellatti walked away from the accident he caused that killed a man, it was by the grace of the woman he made a widow that he is free to continue his promising pitching career with the Rays.

    Bellatti was 18 and home in the San Diego area after his first pro season on that January 2010 afternoon when he sped across the yellow lines on a rain-slicked road by his old high school, lost control of his Ford Mustang and crashed head-on into a van....

    Andrew Bellatti was a teenager when he lost control of his car and killed a 50-year-old man. Now 23, he is in Rays major-league camp for the first time.
  7. Rays: Tributes to late Don Zimmer begin

    The Heater

    Signs of a Zimmer tribute

    The absence of senior adviser Don Zimmer, who died in June, is felt regularly at Rays camp. Saturday, the team gathered before the first full-squad workout to unveil a way to remember him, naming the path he used to drive his golf cart onto the fields Don Zimmer Way. Baseball operations president Matt Silverman said Charlotte County officials suggested the idea, and the team felt "it was a great way to honor him." 3B Evan Longoria felt the same, calling it "a beautiful tribute" and joking that the cantankerous Zimmer would not have agreed. "I know he'd probably have some criticism of it if he was around," Longoria said....

    WILL VRAGOVIC    |    Times
  8. Cash's introductory speech big hit with Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — New Rays manager Kevin Cash had been practicing for weeks and was nervous right up to the start as he delivered his introductory speech before Saturday's first full-squad workout, stressing the concept of team above anything else.

    "Today was the first day that we kind of start with creating the identity of our club a little bit," Cash said. "We're all very big on 'teammates' and the concept of being a good teammate."...

    Rays manager Kevin Cash, left, makes a strong positive impression on his players during the inaugural speech of his first full-squad workout, emphasizing a team concept and getting it all in in about six minutes.
  9. Live from Port Charlotte: Belisario hurt, Zimmer honored


    UPDATE, 12:05: Silverman said Belisario told them he hurt his shoulder getting out of a swimming pool about a month ago and didn't have it checked until he got here. He wont't throw for at least two weeks and is unlikely to be ready to start the season.

    Among other notes:

    Silverman says Cash's address to team was "compact and powerful.'' The whole meeting took under 30 minutes. Silverman said he spoke of maintaining "the winning culture" they have established.

    The idea of renaming the path to fields that Zimmer rode in golf cart on came from Charlotte County staff, the Rays say. Also, the team and Clearwater for Youth tonight also will present first Don Zimmer Memorial Scholarship....

    Rays players gathered for unveiling of the "Don Zimmer Way" sign before first workout today.
  10. Rays: Media guide, ticket sales, Fan Day is Saturday

    The Heater

    Making their pitch

    The cover of the Rays media guide includes their five top starting pitchers, clockwise from top: Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore. There is also a classy tribute on the inside cover to the late Don Zimmer.

    Ticket time

    Regular-season single-game tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. exclusively via Starting 10 a.m. Monday, tickets will be available at other outlets including the Trop Gate 1 box office, Tampa team store, Ticketmaster and by calling toll-free 1-888-FAN-RAYS....

  11. Rays right to cut ties with ex-top pick Josh Sale

    The Heater

    The Rays made the right move in releasing thrice-suspended 2010 No. 1 draft pick OF Josh Sale before he did something else wrong.

    If anything, the only question is what took them so long.

    As they have with other troubled players, the Rays showed considerable patience with Sale, a power-hitting outfielder they took 17th overall out of Seattle's Bishop Blanchett High. But Sale, 23 now, turned out to be too much trouble, even with the investment of a $1.62 million bonus and the cache of being a first-rounder. ...

    Since being a first-round draftpick in 2010, Josh Sale has run into a litany of problems, including two suspensions imposed by Major League Baseball and a third by the Rays.
  12. Ex-Rays coach George Hendrick visits camp

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — George Hendrick stopped by Rays camp Wednesday to say hello — and goodbye.

    Replaced as first-base coach and reassigned to a special adviser role with no defined duties, Hendrick, 65, said he did not expect to be around the team much so he wanted to visit before the players got too busy.

    And he said that after 47 years in uniform — including four All-Star selections and two World Series championships as a player — he has had enough and was looking ahead to retirement....

    Tampa Bay Rays first base coach George Hendrick (25) watches as a video about Zimmer is played on the scoreboard during a ceremony honoring Tampa Bay Rays senior baseball advisor Don Zimmer (66) prior to the start of the Seattle Mariners against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Saturday, June 7, 2014.
  13. Rays' Balfour rushes to Australia for cancer-stricken father

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Reliever Grant Balfour left Rays camp to fly home to Australia as his cancer-stricken father took a turn for the worse.

    "Grant's trying to get back there and see him," Rays manager Kevin Cash said Wednesday.

    Balfour last visited in December and said that when he left, he knew it might be the last time he saw David, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010. The cancer has spread to his stomach, neck and brain....

    Grant Balfour last visited his father, David, in December and said when he left then he knew it might be the last time he saw David, who was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and has since had it spread to his stomach, neck and brain. [Blacktown International Sports Centre | Sydney NSW]
  14. Live from Port Charlotte: Balfour leaves camp, Hendrick visits


    UPDATE, 1:25: The Rays got their work in despite some light rain.

    Some further news/notes:

    * LHP Drew Smyly did not throw a bullpen session with the other pitchers in his group, but he and manager Kevin Cash said that was by design as he prefers a slightly different program than the Rays use. Smyly will throw bullpens every third day, instead of every other as the other pitchers, and will throw more each time. As a result, he also will make one less exhibition appearance, not debuting until March 10-11....

    Former 1B coach George Hendrick made an appearance at camp in his new role as special advisor, and was greeted warmly.
  15. Drew Smyly says he has no issue with Yoan Moncada, just the system

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays LHP Drew Smyly said he has no issue with Cuban free agent INF Yoan Moncada or the $31.5 million he reportedly got from the Red Sox.

    But it's the system that let Moncada cash in while amateurs from the United States and other countries can't that Smyly criticized in a Twitter post that became a topic of considerable digital and actual discussion Tuesday....

    Drew Smyly creates quite the buzz with his tweet concerning rules on amateur signing bonuses.