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

    Blog

    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.

    The column is behind the ESPN Insider paywall, but the gist of Law's explanation is that while the Rays added "some talent" through trades, their draft record "has been among the most disappointing" in the game and they have to get more big-leaguers with their top picks....

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

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    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]
  3. Matt Moore "in a good spot" after throwing from mound

    Blog

    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."...

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

    Blog

     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.''...

  5. 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."...

  6. 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....

  7. Jake McGee throws for first time since elbow surgery

    Blog

    Rays LHP Jake McGee took the latest step in his recovery from December elbow surgery, playing catch for the first time since on Monday at the Trop.

    McGee is aiming for a mid- to late-April return.

    He had arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in his left elbow.

  8. Kevin Cash remains optimistic after Rays' moves

    The Heater

    During his first week on the job during the December winter meetings, new Rays manager Kevin Cash was quite pleased with the lineups he was jotting down.

    Cash is still scribbling, but those names are vastly differently now — "They've been tweaked," he cracked — as the Rays have since traded half the team he thought he'd inherited, dealing SS Yunel Escobar, C Ryan Hanigan, INF/OF Ben Zobrist and OFs Matt Joyce and Wil Myers....

    Kevin Cash new Tampa Bay Rays Manager attends the Major League Baseball winter meetings.
  9. Rays name Jared Sandberg manager at Triple-A Durham

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jared Sandberg has a pretty good idea what he's getting into as the Rays' new Triple-A manager, having played parts of five seasons in Durham and for both the highly successful skippers who held the job previously, Bill Evers and Charlie Montoyo.

    "Both Bill and Charlie managed me in the minors, and the tradition they set in Durham makes for some pretty big shoes to fill," Sandberg said Wednesday, "but I feel like I can handle it and I'm up to the challenge."...

  10. Sandberg to Durham as Rays set staffs

    Blog

    UPDATE, 5:19: The Rays have released the full staffs, with a couple of other interesting notes: Longtime - and very well-respected - Rays minor-league catcher Craig Albernaz will make his coaching debut as a member of the staff at rookie-level Princeton, and Jorge Moncada was promoted to assistant pitching coordinator to fill the void left by Kyle Snyder's promotion to Triple-A Durham.

    DEVELOPING: The Rays are in the process today of announcing their minor-league coaching staffs....

  11. Rays well-stocked in shortstop prospects

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have a long scroll of shortstops of the future who have not — or not yet — made it to the present.

    Tim Beckham is heading into his eighth season of trying through varied issues. Hak-Ju Lee was derailed by a significant knee injury at Triple A. Jake Hager has made steady but slow progress through Double A.

    But over the past few months, the Rays have refreshed that list, bringing in three elite-level young shortstops — Willy Adames, Daniel Robertson and Adrian Rondon — who are considered among their best prospects and brightest hopes to be impact players....

    Rays infielder Adrian Rondon during the Rays’ Winter Development Program at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.[WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times] 
  12. Ben Zobrist thanks Rays, fans in heartfelt ad

    Blog

    After a week to come to grips with the trade to Oakland, former Rays INF/OF Ben and Julianna Zobrist shared their feelings about his former Rays bosses and teammates, and the Tampa Bay fans, in a heartfelt ad that ran in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.

     

    The ad placed by the Zobrists appeared in Sunday's Times.
  13. Rays say moves try to balance future, present

    The Heater

    Matt Silverman did not simply wake up one morning after sliding into his new role as president of Rays baseball operations and decide to ship out nearly half the team he inherited. • It only looked that way. • The massive offseason makeover that Silverman has orchestrated — making seven trades that sent nine key players packing and cutting a 10th — is the product of a process to restock a sagging farm system, reduce what had been a franchise-high payroll (though only by about $10 million, to around $70 million) and increase the flexibility of the roster, all while hanging on to enough talent to return the team to contention. • "It's a little bit of a threading of the needle," Silverman said. "We're working within our constraints to field a team that we believe can compete, while at the same time keeping an eye on the needed talent in our system to maintain confidence in our long-term competitiveness." • The plan — yes, despite what some critics suggest, they do have one — was employed, and perhaps accelerated, after Silverman replaced Andrew Friedman in mid October, then saw manager Joe Maddon leave....

    WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times
  14. DeJesus deal among possible moves in play for Rays

    The Heater

    Even with all the changes so far, the Rays seem likely to make a few more moves before or during spring training.

    One would be trading veteran OF David DeJesus, who with the addition of fellow lefty swinger John Jaso as the primary DH seems reduced to occasional duty or insurance in case rookie OF Steven Souza isn't deemed ready.

    With a reasonable $5 million salary and limited free-agent outfield options, DeJesus should have some market appeal, at least bringing back a prospect....

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter David DeJesus (7) scored an in the park home run in the fourth inning after Baltimore Orioles left fielder Alejandro De Aza had the ball knocked loose from his glove, after colliding with Baltimore Orioles center fielder David Lough (9) as the Rays take on the Orioles Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field. DeJesus is all smiles after making it back to the dugout.
  15. Ryan Dempster's "Top 10 Reasons Cubs Hired Joe Maddon" from Rays gets laughs in Chicago

    Blog

    The annual Cubs convention is an even bigger deal than usual this year, with the hiring of former Rays manager Joe Maddon among the reasons for the increased excitement. And former Cubs pitcher and current front office special assistant Ryan Dempster had some fun with Maddon - and indirectly the Rays - in a Letterman-style Top 10 list he performed Friday night (courtesy mlb.com):

    "The Top 10 reasons the Cubs hired Joe Maddon:"

    10. "We misheard and thought he knew (actor) Eva Longoria."

    9. "We're trying to set the Guinness Book of World Records for most fired managers."

    8. "We needed someone who would take the leftover Harry Caray glasses."

    7. "The Cubs' bus keeps breaking down so we figured, 'Hey, we can use his RV.' "

    6. "Most managers take shots from the media; Joe Maddon buys shots for the media."

    5. "We have a young team here in Chicago, and if 60 is the new 40, well, we need someone to manage all of our toddlers."

    4. "(Model wife of former Cub/current Rays OF David DeJesus) Kim DeJesus told us to."

    3. "He's the son of a plumber and, let's just face it: the Wrigley bathrooms need a ton of work."

    2. "We just feel bad for anyone who lives in Florida."

    1. "Well, because of all the other managers we tried to tamper with, none of them called us back.''...