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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. Batting orders among Rays' big decisions in spring

    The Heater

    As the Rays prepare this week to open spring training, one phrase you will hear a lot, in assorted iterations, is that their problems are good ones to have.

    They'll say that about the quality of arms in camp, with a strong rotation backed by the formal unveiling of the next wave led by LHP Blake Snell. About the abundance of outfielders and first base/DH types, citing the benefits of injury protection and banking on James Loney, the likely odd man out, to be a good soldier to facilitate a deal....

      Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings (8) in the dugout during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, July 25, 2015.
  2. Rays' position battles heading into spring training

    The Heater

    There are plenty of things Rays officials don't know as they head to Port Charlotte this week to open spring training.

    Who from a group of inexperienced options led by Alex Colome will emerge as the primary setup man for closer Brad Boxberger?

    What, besides having Evan Longoria hitting third, will the lineup look like as the team sorts out how best to deploy its new weapons?

    And how many more hat sizes will All-Star ace Chris Archer have to go up to contain his mushrooming mane?...

    Newcomer Corey Dickerson, left, is expected to be the primary DH, while wild-haired Chris Archer, right, is the established ace. Tim Beckham, center, is a favorite to be the backup middle infielder.
  3. Rays hostng free Play Ball Day event on Sunday at Trop

    Blog

    The Rays are inviting all kids, and parents, to a free Play Ball event at the Trop Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m featuring baseball instruction from former big leaguers Andy Sonnanstine and Mike DiFelice, inflatable games, entertainers and more. The first 1,000 kids get a free Rays SuperHero Cape shirt.

     

  4. A look at the Rays spring roster

    Blog

    A look at the Rays 62-man spring roster; non-roster invitees marked with an x:

    Pitchers (32)
    35 Matt Andriese
    22 Chris Archer
    59 Andrew Bellatti
    26 Brad Boxberger
    31 Xavier Cedeno (L)
    53 Alex Cobb
    37 Alex Colome
    51 x-Dana Eveland (L)
    34 Jacob Faria
    43 Danny Farquhar
    73 x-Eddie Gamboa
    82 x-Ryan Garton
    54 Steve Geltz
    56 Taylor Guerrieri
    72 x-Jhan Marinez
    75 x-Parker Markel
    81 x-Justin Marks (L)
    80 x-Kyle McPherson
    55 Matt Moore (L)
    23 Jake Odorizzi
    30 Erasmo Ramirez
    70 x-Adam Reifer
    45 Enny Romero (L)
    76 x-Mark Sappington
    78 x-Jamie Schultz
    33 Drew Smyly (L)
    50 Blake Snell (L)
    79 x-Tyler Sturdevant
    49 x-Jonny Venters (L)
    71 x-Neil Wagner
    47 Chase Whitley
    74 x-Adam Wilk (L)

    Catchers (6)
    19 Curt Casali
    24 Hank Conger
    64 x-Jake DePew
    46 Luke Maile
    14 Justin O'Conner
    44 Rene Rivera

    Infielders (14)
    1  Tim Beckham
    29 Ryan Brett
    11 Logan Forsythe
    2  Nick Franklin
    61 x-Patrick Leonard
    21 James Loney
    3  Evan Longoria
    13 Brad Miller
    7  Logan Morrison
    28 Steve Pearce
    62 x-Juniel Querecuto
    60 x-Daniel Robertson
    63 x-Kyle Roller
    36 Richie Shaffer

    Outfielders (10)

    68 x-Jaff Decker
    10 Corey Dickerson
    85 x-Johnny Field
    5  Brandon Guyer
    8  Desmond Jennings
    39 Kevin Kiermaier
    27 Mikie Mahtook
    38 Taylor Motter
    20 Steven Souza Jr.
    67 x-Dayron Varona

    Staff

    16 Kevin Cash, manager
    15 Rocco Baldelli, 1B coach
    41 Stan Boroski, bullpen coach
    6  Tom Foley, bench coach
    48 Jim Hickey (pitching coach)
    25 Charlie Montoyo (3B coach)
    4  Jamie Nelson (coach)
    17 Derek Shelton (hitting coach)...

  5. A wild pitch from Montreal: Split the Rays with Tampa Bay

    Blog

    If Montreal interests can't get the Rays to relocate, would they want them as part-time guests?

    A creative, if not desperate, idea to bring baseball back to Montreal was floated today in the the French language newspaper La Presse — buying the Rays and having them play half their home games in Canada and half in the Tampa Bay area....

    An article in the French language newspaper La Presse proposes the idea of the Rays playing half their home games in Canada and half in the Tampa Bay area.
  6. Rays highlight Kiermaier on 2016 promotions list

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Outfielder Kevin Kier­maier and All-Star ace Chris Archer are the featured attractions on the Rays' 24-weekend-date promotion schedule released Friday.

    The team will give away a Kiermaier platinum glove bobblehead on April 16, a Kiermaier glove to kids on April 17 and a Kiermaier Claus bobblehead to kids July 17.

    There will be an Archer K-Counter bobblehead giveaway on April 30 and an Archer Storm­trooper bobblehead on June 11 to all fans....

    Rays promotions include Kevin Kiermaier and Chris Archer bobbleheads
  7. Rays' promotions feature Kiermaier, Archer

    Blog

    The Rays released their promo schedule today featuring three Kevin Kiermaier giveaways, including a Platinum Glove Bobblehead, and two for ace Chris Archer. 

    Single game tickets go on sale Feb. 19 on raysbaseball.com, and Feb. 20 at the Trop box office and Tampa store.

     

    The Kevin Kiermaier Platinum Glove bobblehead.
  8. Rays present keys to Habitat for Humanity home they helped build

    Blog

    Rays manager Kevin Cash presents the keys to a new Habitat for Humanity home to Lakeba Wallace and her daughter on Thursday, with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, team president Brian Auld and other club officials and mascot Raymond looking on.

    The Rays not only provided funding for the south St. Petersburg house, but helped build it during the five-week process, with 180 team volunteers logging more than 1,000 construction hours, providing the bulk of the work.  Land for the home was donated by Bank of America....

  9. Rays having advanced talks with free-agent RHP Tommy Hunter

    Blog

    The Rays have been having advanced talks with free-agent Tommy Hunter as they seek to add another experienced reliever.

    Hunter, 29, is coming off abdominal surgery that could sideline him at the start of the season.  The hard-throwing right-hander split 2015 between the Orioles and Cubs, going 4-2, 4.18. Per ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Hunter sustained the injury late in the season.

    The two previous seasons in Baltimore he was 9-7, 2.88 with 15 saves....

    Tommy Hunter, 29, is coming off abdominal surgery that could sideline him at the start of the season.
  10. Corey Dickerson expects to add 'thump' to Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Corey Dickerson made his first appearance Wednesday with the dozen or so Rays who have been working out at the Trop, but he needed no formal introduction. The sound of the ball coming off his bat and rattling around when it eventually crashed down in the seats made it clear.

    Dickerson is the biggest piece in a major reconstruction the Rays did to a lineup that finished 14th in the American League in runs last year, joined by Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Steve Pearce and, depending on how the catching situation works out, potentially Hank Conger....

    Tampa Bay Rays new OF/DH Corey Dickerson taking batting practice during a workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.
  11. For the moment, Rays content with roster

    Sports

    With two weeks until the opening of spring training, the Rays feel good about their roster, especially their depth and versatility.

    Assuming all key players make it through spring, the only thing they seemingly have to do by April is find a way to dispose of first baseman James Loney, who is said to be in tremendous shape.

    That would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson getting a chunk of his at-bats at DH and their preferred outfield alignment of Desmond Jennings in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, with Brandon Guyer as the top backup (and starter somewhere vs. lefty pitchers)....

  12. Rays happy with roster, could still make moves to improve

    The Heater

    With two weeks until the opening of spring training, the Rays feel good about their roster, especially their depth and versatility.

    Assuming all key players make it through spring, the only thing they seemingly have to do by April is find a way to dispose of 1B James Loney, who is said to be in tremendous shape.

    That would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, with Corey Dickerson getting a chunk of his at-bats at DH and their preferred outfield alignment of Desmond Jennings in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, with Brandon Guyer as the top backup (and starter somewhere vs. lefty pitchers)....

    Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Desmond Jennings (8) in the dugout during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays.
  13. Halladay targets PED users at Ted Williams Hall event

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Roy Halladay was thrilled along with the other honorees at Saturday's Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame induction, more so since he was a pitcher.

    And he showed he still had his fastball, explaining why he spoke out on Twitter last month against Hall of Fame candidates Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds over their use of performance-enhancing drugs.

    "There were a lot of opinions and a lot of debate, but I didn't hear the views of anybody who competed against any of them and had so much to lose," he said before the Dinner with Chris Archer & Friends event....

  14. Rays among teams considering reliever Tyler Clippard

    Blog

    Free-agent RHP Tyler Clippard may not have to look far for a new home.

    The Rays are among the teams interested in the Mitchell High product, who finished 2015 with the Mets, going 5-4, 2.92 with 19 saves overall.

    Clippard, 31 on Feb. 14, is looking at a pay cut from the $8.3-million he made last season.

    The Rays can offer a set-up role, the chance to play near home and the Florida tax break.

    The D'backs and Mets are among those also interested....

  15. Snell, Adames, Honeywell top Baseball America Rays prospect list

    Blog

    LHP Blake Snell was the obvious selection at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays top 30 prospects included in the just-released annual Prospect Handbook.

    SS Willy Adames and RHP Brent Honeywell were also logical choices for the next two slots, but there were some surprises down the rest of the list in the rankings and capsules that are must-reading to keep up on the prospects.

    The rankings are compiled before the December Rule 5 draft and some trades, so not all transactions are reflected. 3B Kevin Padlo, acquired from Colorado in the Jake McGee trade, was No. 18 on the Rockies list.

    Players who have been in the majors are shown in bold.

    Here is the list:
    1. LHP Blake Snell
    2. SS Willy Adames
    3. RHP Brent Honeywell
    4. OF/1B Jake Bauers
    5. OF Garrett Whitley
    6. OF Mikie Mahtook
    7. RHP Taylor Guerrieri
    8. RHP Jacob Faria
    9. 1B Casey Gillaspie
    10. SS Daniel Robertson
    11. 3B/1B Richie Shaffer
    12. 2B Ryan Brett
    13. C Justin O'Conner
    14. RHP German Marquez (since traded to Rockies)
    15. C Chris Betts
    16. RHP Chih-Wei Hu
    17. OF Justin Williams
    18. SS Adrian Rondon
    19. RHP Brandon Koch
    20. RHP Andrew Bellatti
    21. INF/OF Taylor Motter
    22. OF Tyler Goeddel (since taken by Phillies in Rule 5 draft)
    23. RHP Jamie Schultz
    24. RHP Hunter Wood
    25. SS Jake Hager
    26. C Nick Ciuffo
    27. C Luke Maile
    28. OF Thomas Milone
    29. LHP Enny Romero
    30. RHP Jose Mujica
    Bonus No. 31. OF Jesus Sanchez...

    Pitcher Blake Snell is at the top of Baseball America's list of the Rays' top 30 prospects.