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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. Spring games might not count but performances sure do for these Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE

    Tonight is the start of something. The Rays play the first of 34 games to get ready for the 162 they will battle through for the chance to win the final 11 — or, if they're a wild card, 12 — postseason games needed to finish the year as champions.

    The Rays know mostly what they have, with 20 of the 25 opening-day roster spots, maybe more, seemingly set. What happens over the next five weeks probably won't mean much — unless, of course it does, likely in terms of a significant injury or unexpected trade....

    Reliever Shawn Tolleson, who had 35 saves in 2015 with the Rangers, is trying to return from back issues that he struggled with last season.
  2. Rays journal: Rasmus' beard doesn't survive the cut

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — OF Colby Rasmus is facing his first hairy situation with the Rays because of his scraggly chin beard.

    Rasmus chuckled Thursday at all the attention, and Internet hate, he is getting for the, um, interesting looking facial hair he grew during the winter then shaved off this week at his wife's request.

    "It's kind of simple really,'' Rasmus said. "I'm not really trying to make a statement or nothing. I just started growing it out and it doesn't grow too good up here on my face, and I don't like to get the bumps on my neck. It felt good to me....

    Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus sported a beard when camp opened but after a “suggestion” from his wife, he shaved it off.
  3. Rays' Colby Rasmus says we may not have seen last of beard

    Blog

    OF Colby Rasmus didn't expect to make his first headlines with the Rays because of his scraggly chin beard.

    Rasmus chuckled Thursday at all the attention, and Internet hate, he is getting for the chin beard he grew for no specific reason - and shaved off for a good one....

    Colby Rasmus' beard was described as "puke" worthy by Deadspin.
  4. Re-signing Logan Morrison: Rays' big offseason gamble

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Some of the decisions the Rays made during a busy offseason definitely can be debated, headlined by why they traded Logan Forsythe and added to most recently by why they didn't spend more to sign free agent Matt Wieters.

    Another fair question is that given the hefty number of other intriguing first-base options available, why — or depending on your level of skepticism, why in the world! — did they re-sign Logan Morrison?...

    Logan Morrison hit .280 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs in his final 77 games last season.
  5. MLB players union chief: No rush to change rules to speed up game

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — A day after being cited for a "lack of cooperation" by commissioner Rob Manfred, players union chief Tony Clark said after meeting with the Rays on Wednesday morning that discussions over rules changes to improve pace of play this season are and will remain ongoing.

    But he also made clear the union was in no rush to hurry-up the game.

    "The conversations about changes are always sensitive ones,'' Clark said. "That doesn't mean the guys aren't willing to have it, doesn't mean the guys don't understand why we're having it....

    Rob Manfred
  6. Port Charlotte report: Rainy day, union meeting

    Blog

    UPDATE, 10:16: Due to the rain, all workouts will be the cages, and the complex is closed to fans. Pitchers will be able to throw off the mounds, and hitters hit off machines or coaches' throwing. ...Longoria was back in the clubhouse and with the team.

    DEVELOPING: What is expected to be day-long rains have already started here in Port Charlotte, which likely will keep the Rays off the fields, with pitchers and hitters instead headed to the covered batting cages,...

    It's already soggy in Port Charlotte.
  7. Rays aren't heartbroken about losing Wieters to Nationals

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — There was some amazement in Rays Land that Matt Wieters ended up getting $21 million guaranteed from the Nationals over two years, with the added benefit of an option to leave after one $10 million season.

    There was no surprise that he ended up signing elsewhere.

    The Rays had legitimate interest in Wieters as a power boost to their lineup and an upgrade to their season-starting catching corps, enough to have had an offer on his table for more than a week....

    Matt Wieters is headed to the Nationals on a two-year deal with $21 million in guaranteed money.
  8. Rays journal: Chris Archer on special program to prepare for WBC

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE

    While the Rays are holding back most of their starters and veteran pitchers early in this extended spring training, RHP Chris Archer is working at an accelerated pace to be ready for next month's World Baseball Classic.

    Tuesday, that was evident as Archer split his batting practice session into two 15-pitch segments so he could simulate a break between innings, a plan devised by pitching coach Jim Hickey and head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. ...

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Matt Duffy (5) plays catch during a Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.
  9. No Rays for Wieters, who has $21M, two-year deal with Nats

    Blog

    UPDATE, 3:59: The Rays offer was for about $6-million guaranteed, with the chance with all incentives to get past $10-million. ... They are not expected to have interest in Derek Norris, who the Nats now will look to trade.

    UPDATE, 12:39: The deal, confirmed by multiple sources, is for $21-million, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, with salaries of $10M in 2017 and $11M in 2018 unless he opts out....

    The Rays made an offer to land Wieters, pitching a one-year deal that gave him the opportunity to rebuild his value for another run at free agency in 2018.
  10. Port Charlotte report: Pruitt to start Friday opener, Longoria still ill

    Blog

    UPDATE, 1:35: RHP Austin Pruitt will start Friday's exhibition opener at the Twins, with RHP Jake Faria, RHP Ryan Garton, RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Ryne Stanek, RHP Hunter Wood, LHP Jose Alvarado and RHP Jeff Walters also slated. ... Cash said Longoria still had a high fever this morning which is why he was sent home. ... Archer took a break after 15 pitches of his live batting practice to simulate an inning break as part of his preparation for the WBC, and then came back to throw 15 more. ... Duffy was pleased to hit with the full team today and said his surgically repaired left heel felt good....

  11. Rays journal: Improving baserunning an early focus in camp

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE

    One of the things the Rays need to improve this season is baserunning.

    And they started that process Monday by talking about it, 1B coach Rocco Baldelli leading a discussion that started with being more aware of situations.

    "We know that's an area with room for improvement," manager Kevin Cash said. "A little more thought process before something takes place, so when they get on base and a pitch goes by, revisit where the outfielders are, where the infielders are, outs, score, stuff like that. We think we can be a little better at it."...

    Rays infielder Brad Miller parks under a popup during an early spring drill.
  12. Port Charlotte report: Glove love, more live BP, no Longo for Rays

    Blog

    UPDATE, 2:16: Cash said Longoria texted this morning, said he felt sick, hadn't slept, had a fever, etc. No concern if he misses Tuesday as well.

    Also, Cash said they spent time today on the mental approach to baserunning, with 1B coach Rocco Baldelli talking about being more aware of situations.

    Cash also praised their work on the pop-up drill, noting Tim Beckham for taking charge while playing SS.

    SS Matt Duffy, on a reduced work schedule as he recovers from heel surgery, tracked some pitches during BP and may hit with his group on Tuesday....

    Players are always interested in checking out the new gloves,
  13. Rays journal: Kiermaier delivers message to teammates

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — CF Kevin Kiermaier said he is not one to deliver a rah-rah, "follow me, boys" speech, but he felt the need to say something Sunday morning near the end of the team meeting before the Rays' first full-squad workout of the spring.

    "A little bit of enlightenment, I guess you can call it," Kiermaier said of his message, which he estimated lasted not more than 20 seconds....

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) bunts during a Spring Training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Kiermaier is one of several position players who have reported early to spring camp.
  14. Alternate history: What wouldn't have happened if Rays had taken Weeks over Young

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE

    We don't know what would have happened had Devil Rays officials gone the other way on what was basically a coin-flip decision and taken Rickie Weeks with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft.

    But we can tell you what wouldn't have happened, or at least not the way history unfolded, had they not instead drafted Delmon Young. Because if the Rays had not taken him …...

    Rickie Weeks, who is entering his 14th major-league season, is expected to provide some right-handed pop for the Rays.
  15. Port Charlotte report: Rays all together now

    Blog

    After a foggy start to the morning in Port Charlotte, the Rays are set for their first full-squad workout of the spring, taking the field at around 10:30.

    Before heading out, there is a meeting in the clubhouse where manager Kevin Cash and front-office officials will address the 65 players in camp.

    The highlight - or, if you are a hitter, lowlight - of the day will live batting practice, starting around 12:10, with flamethrowing Jose Alvarado and Ryne Stanek among the pitchers scheduled for work.

    Check back later for updates....

    Evan Longoria got in some early work despite the fog.