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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Power play energizes Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Coach Jon Cooper has one simple explanation for why the Lightning's once-struggling power play has started to heat up as the playoff race intensifies.

    "I think we're getting a little bit more puck luck," Cooper said.

    Whether it's luck or new tactics, the Lightning is happy with the result heading into tonight's game against the Maple Leafs. Tampa Bay has scored six power-play goals in its past five games, including two in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Buffalo. Entering Wednesday, only six teams had scored more with the advantage than the Lightning (41 goals), but it was middle of the pack in converting on its chances at 18.1 percent....

    Tampa Bay Lightning Ryan Callahan beats Buffalo Sabres goalie Anders Lindback and defenseman Mike Weber to score on a 5 on 3 power play against the Buffalo Sabres during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening  (03/03/15).
  2. Lightning recalls Vladislav Namestnikov from Syracuse Crunch


    The Lightning has recalled forward Vladislav Namestnikov from AHL-Syracuse, the team announced Wednesday evening.

    The 22-year-old has appeared in 26 NHL games this season, recording three goals and four assists. He last played with the Lightning on Feb. 12....

  3. Matt Carle sheds no-contact jersey, and more Lightning notes


    BRANDON – As expected, defenseman Matt Carle shed his red, no-contact jersey and participated fully in today’s practice at the Ice Sports Forum.

    “For me, it was good,” Carle said. “Just trying to get my confidence back and be able to do whatever I want on the ice, obviously getting back in shape and being able to make reads and get my timing down on certain things. It’s a good step in the right direction.”...

    Defenseman Matt Carle shed his red, no-contact jersey and participated fully in today’s practice at the Ice Sports Forum.
  4. Vasilevskiy earns first NHL shutout in Lightning's victory over Sabres

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — After goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning both struggled in their last games, Tuesday night's 3-0 win over the Sabres was the kind of bounce-back victory they both needed.

    Vasilevskiy starred, rebounding from the five goals he allowed in a defeat on Feb. 22 at Colorado to earn the first shutout of his NHL career, in only his ninth start.

    "He bounced back," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. "We knew he was going to do that. That's what he's all about."...

    Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy makes a save, one of his 28 in the game, against the Sabres during the first period.
  5. Braydon Coburn makes Lightning debut

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — A day after an early-morning deal sent him from Philadelphia to the Lightning, D Braydon Coburn was still coming to terms with a rollercoaster 24 hours.

    "It feels a little different," Coburn said. "I'll adjust quickly."

    The Lightning is counting on it.

    Coach Jon Cooper said he believes in his team's ability to score, and Tampa Bay's 3.25 goals a game are the most in the league. But defense is always at a premium, so acquiring a top-four defenseman pleased Cooper, even if it meant losing injured D Radko Gudas, a first-round pick and a third-rounder....

    Defenseman Braydon Coburn says of his Lightning debut, “It’s  good to get that one under the belt.”
  6. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota coming to Jon Gruden's QB camp


    Two of the Bucs’ possible targets for the No. 1 pick will be on ESPN’s Jon Gruden QB Camp later this spring.

    Florida State’s Jameis Winston is scheduled for filming on April 1, a day after his pro day in Tallahassee, according to FSU. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is also scheduled to participate, along with Bryce Petty (Baylor), Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Garrett Grayson (Colorado State). This is the sixth year Gruden, the former Bucs coach, has done the ESPN series, which will begin airing on April 7....

    Marcus Mariota, left, and Jameis Winston, right, will appear on Jon Gruden's QB Camp segment on ESPN.
  7. Braydon Coburn gets to work with Lightning after trade deadline


    TAMPA – After what he called a rollercoaster trade deadline, defenseman Braydon Coburn has arrived with his new team.

    The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Coburn joined the Lightning for today’s morning skate at Amalie Arena and was paired with Jason Garrison. Coburn said he was surprised and shocked by the trade – which sent defenseman Radko Gudas, a first-round pick and a third-rounder to the Flyers....

    Braydon Coburn, second from left, celebrates a goal with former Flyers teammates during the 2011 playoffs.
  8. 'The Hunting Ground' puts a face on Jameis Winston's accuser


    One of the first public images of Jameis Winston's accuser comes more than an hour into the documentary The Hunting Ground. Zephyrhills native Erica Kinsman appears as a little girl in a photo, wearing a garnet and gold Florida State University cheerleading outfit.

    By the end of her scene, Kinsman is in tears.

    The controversial film — which the Tampa Bay Times viewed Monday in an advance screening — reveals little new information about the 2012 sexual assault allegations against FSU's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. But it does put a name and face on the woman at the other end of the accusations and shares a candid comment from a Tallahassee prosecutor....

    Erica Kinsman is one of many students at universities across the country, from North Carolina to Harvard to Cal-Berkeley, who tell their stories in the documentary The Hunting Ground.
  9. NFL Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston grows lead over Marcus Mariota


    Before we get to the mock drafts, a few quick notes.

    With more than 3,300 votes, Florida State’s Jameis Winston is narrowing the gap with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in our updated (and unscientific) reader poll. Mariota has 44.6 percent of the vote, with Winston at 41.3. You can cast your own vote here. ...

    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, left, shakes the hand of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota after last month's NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis.
  10. Success with Rays builds Boxberger's confidence

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — It has been more than a year since catcher Rene Rivera played regularly with reliever Brad Boxberger, back when they were both trying to stick on the Padres' major-league roster.

    And though Rivera hasn't caught Boxberger much in Rays camp this spring, he can already notice the change in the 26-year-old right-hander.

    "He's more confident," Rivera said. "You get better with confidence, with having the opportunity to know what you can do and learning yourself. I guess he did it last year."...

    “Definitely knowing that my stuff plays at the level, that’s probably one of the biggest things to feeling comfortable,” Brad Boxberger, who unlike this time last year has a job locked up.
  11. Rays' Cash worries visa issues may stall Colome

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — As the Rays prepare for today's first full-squad workout, manager Kevin Cash said he's concerned about the one player still absent — RHP Alex Colome, who is being delayed because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic.

    "It starts to be a concern already," Cash said. "Hopefully he's on track. We're getting reports he's throwing bullpens and stuff. Still, you want him here."...

    Rays pitcher Alex Colome is in the Dominican Republic thanks to visa issues.  CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times
  12. Kevin Cash concerned over Alex Colome's visa delays


    PORT CHARLOTTE – A few quick notes from today’s spring training workouts….

    Manager Kevin Cash the visa issues with RHP Alex Colome are getting closer to a resolution, but the team is already “concerned” with his absence.

     “It starts to be a concern already,” Cash said. “Hopefully he’s on track. We’re getting reports he’s throwing bullpens and stuff. Still, you want him here.”...

  13. Boog Powell reports to Rays camp, only one still missing


    PORT CHARLOTTE – Outfielder Boog Powell reported to Rays camp this morning, leaving right-hander Alex Colome as the only one of the 63 players who hasn’t yet arrived. Colome is being delayed because of visa issues in the Dominican Republic.

    Powell, who came to the Rays in the Ben Zobrist trade, got in around 9 last night and said he was excited for the opportunity as a nonroster invite....

    WHAT NEXT? Rays pitchers take a break during spring training camp Friday in Port Charlotte. [MATT BAKER | Times]
  14. Rays' Chris Archer impressing Kevin Cash

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Manager Kevin Cash singled out RHP Chris Archer as one of the most impressive Rays pitchers this spring.

    "He's game ready," Cash said. "He's ready to go."

    Archer's readiness comes from a winter geared more to the rigors of the season than it had been in the past.

    The 26-year-old threw a career-high 194 2/3 innings last season over 32 starts. Although September was one of his best months (a 2.97 ERA in five starts), Archer said his body began to tire. So in the offseason he focused on three or four weeks of intense training followed by a lighter week to let his body recover....

    Rays starter Chris Archer says he changed his offseason routine to better prepare himself for the rigors of the long season.
  15. Ex-Plant High standout Corey Brown bids for Rays spot

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The last time outfielder Corey Brown played regularly in Tampa Bay, he was starring at Plant High as one of the top prospects in the state.

    Eleven years later, the 29-year-old is back with a nonroster spot with the Rays and hopes of finally playing in a big-league game at Tropicana Field.

    "It's pretty cool, man," Brown said before Thursday's workouts.

    But Brown said his decision to sign with the Rays in December wasn't about a homecoming; it was about his best chance to make it back to the major leagues....

    Corey Brown, a second-team all-state pick at Plant High in 2004, has a nonroster spot in Rays camp as an outfielder. “I have to stay healthy … and I have to perform,” he says.