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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. Rays lose to Yankees as A-Rod homers twice

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays rookie Allan Dykstra thought he added another victorious memory to a momentous week for his family, with a three-run, go-ahead home run against the Yankees on Friday night.

    Alex Rodriguez had other plans.

    The 39-year-old Yankees slugger hit two home runs for the first time in almost three years and hit the winning RBI single to hand the Rays a 5-4 loss.

    "Tonight he killed us," reliever Kevin Jepsen said....

    The Rays’ Allan Dykstra, near left, is congratulated by Desmond Jennings after Dykstra hit a three-run homer off Yankees starter Adam Warren during the fourth inning.
  2. Rays: Disabled list grows; starters looking strong

    The Heater

    Number of the day

    10 Rays on the disabled list after LHP Jeff Believeau was put there with shoulder soreness. It's also the number of rookies who will play for the Rays this season, when Ryan Brett and C.J. Riefenhauser enter a game. That's the most in the majors.

    Hot start

    The Rays have already had five games where their starting pitcher lasted more than six innings and allowed no more than two hits. No team in the last 100 years has matched that feat in its first 10 games....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo on photo day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2015 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  3. Rays' Longoria plays a day after getting hit by pitch

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A day after leaving the game with a bruised left hip, Evan Longoria was back in the lineup Friday as the Rays' DH and didn't show any lingering effects.

    "I'm good," Longoria said on his way out of the clubhouse before the game.

    Longoria extended his streak of consecutive games played to 253, and manager Kevin Cash said the team had planned to give him a day at DH sometime soon, even before Blue Jays reliever Marco Estrada hit him with a pitch Thursday night....

    Evan Longoria reacts after getting by a pitch that forces him out of Thursday’s game in Toronto. He is back in the lineup Friday at the Trop.
  4. For Starters, Rays vs. Yankees


    UPDATE, 4:50: It's been a busy day for the Rays. Evan Longoria is in the lineup at DH and will bat fourth, a day after a pitch bruised his left hip. 

    "I'm playing, guys," Longoria said. "I'm good."

    The Rays gave themselves depth at infieeld by optioning OF Mikie Mahtook to Triple-A Durham and recalling INF Ryan Brett. The team made another roster move, sending LHP Jeff Beliveau tot he 15-day DL with left shoulder soreness and recalling LHP C.J. Riefenhauser from Durham. ...

    Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Rays.
  5. Even at home, Jameis Winston creates friction


    HUEYTOWN, Ala. — Ellis McFerrin arrives well before the first pitch and unfolds his red lawn chair along the home team's side at Hueytown High School.

    McFerrin has spent all of his 70 years in Hueytown, a place so sports-crazed that a football and baseball adorn its city seal. He's been coming to games for decades, long enough to marvel when Bo Jackson tracked down balls in centerfield....

    This banner honors Jameis Winston as state player of the year. Photos from Hueytown, Ala. Matt Baker, Times staff
  6. Jameis Winston's legal adviser responds to sexual battery lawsuit


    The civil lawsuit filed Thursday against Jameis Winston didn’t surprise the star quarterback’s legal adviser, who says it won’t distract Winston from this month’s NFL draft....

  7. Erica Kinsman sues NFL prospect Jameis Winston


    Former Florida State University star quarterback Jameis Winston was sued Thursday in the latest — and expected — development in a sexual assault case dating back more than two years.

    In a lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Orange County, Erica Kinsman of Zephyrhills accused Winston of sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and intentionally inflicting "emotional distress" during their December 2012 off-campus sexual encounter in Tallahassee....

    Jameis Winston, the Bucs’ likely No. 1 draft pick, has never been charged.
  8. Who has the edge between Lightning, Red Wings?

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning won the season series from the Red Wings 3-1-0 but was shut out 4-0 in the last game. "They've all been close games," Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop said. "I don't expect them to be any different."

    Here's a look at how the teams match up heading into tonight's first-round playoff opener:


    Ben Bishop, Lightning

    After a breakout 2013-14 regular season, Bishop missed the playoffs with an elbow injury. He has been healthy this season and is in line for his first postseason start. Bishop, 28, broke his franchise record with 40 wins this season while posting a 2.32 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. " 'Bish' has been a brick wall for us for two seasons now," center Tyler Johnson said. "He wasn't able to play for us last year. It's going to be different this year." Backup Andrei Vasilevskiy, whose last start was March 31, is regarded as one of the league's top young goalies....

    Tyler Johnson, left, and Steven Stamkos are among nine Lightning forwards with at least 12 goals in the regular season.
  9. 5 things to know about Detroit Red Wings

    Lightning Strikes

    1. They have things in common with the Lightning

    And they go beyond Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman, who played his entire Hall of Fame career with Detroit. Both teams have speedy, skilled forwards. Detroit is lauded for its experience but also has a notable youth movement, as does Tampa Bay. Detroit wings Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist competed against the Lightning's young core when the latter won the 2012 AHL Calder Cup with Norfolk. "They're just fun to play against," said Lightning center and Cup winner Tyler Johnson (right)....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) smiles while on the ice against the Buffalo Sabres during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday evening (01/09/15).
  10. Injury updates as Lightning prepares for Detroit Red Wings


    BRANDON – Forward Alex Killorn and defenseman Andrej Sustr could be back for the Lightning when it opens the playoffs Thursday night at Amalie Arena.

    “By Thursday I’ll be ready to go and 100 percent,” Killorn said after Monday’s practice at the Ice Sports Forum. “Things have progressed well.”...

    Alex Killorn missed the final three games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.
  11. Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston pulling away from Marcus Mariota


    There’s been a little bit of chatter from NFL Network and ESPN pundits that, perhaps, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is the best use of the Bucs’ No. 1 overall pick.

    Mock Draft Monday disagrees.

    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the unanimous choice in our survey of mock drafts for the second consecutive week.

    Before we get to the details, some regular programming notes:...

  12. Two career firsts for Lightning's Jonathan Marchessault

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — A day after recording a four-point night for AHL Syracuse, C Jonathan Marchessault had an even bigger game.

    In the fourth NHL appearance of his career, the 24-year-old recorded his first NHL goal and first assist in the Lightning's 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins.

    "It was a good moment for me," Marchessault said.

    The team recalled Marchessault — Syracuse's leader in assists (41) and points (64) — Saturday to take the spot of LW Jonathan Drouin (illness). He found out about the recall at the rink Saturday morning and had less than two hours to get ready and catch a flight....

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Jonathan Marchessault (42) celebrates scoring his first NHL goal during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Saturday evening (04/11/15).
  13. Jonathan Drouin sick, and more notes before Game 82


    TAMPA – A few quick notes from today’s morning skate at Amalie Arena:

    * Wing Jonathan Drouin is sick. The Lightning hasn’t said whether he’ll play tonight, but the team recalled F Jonathan Marchessault from AHL-Syracuse.

    * Boston remains alive for the playoffs, and center Steven Stamkos said the Lightning wouldn’t mind ending the Bruins’ postseason chances with a win....

  14. Attorneys seek race car debris that struck client at Grand Prix of St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — Lawyers for the spectator injured at last month's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg have notified the city that she intends to file a lawsuit over its "negligent acts or omissions."

    The woman, Brigitte Hoffstetter, was struck in the head by a piece of a car that sailed over the fence. According to the court filing, Hoffstetter — who is six months pregnant — stumbled three steps backward before falling and smacking her head against the ground....

    (3/29/15, St. Petersburg, FL)  Debris from a section of the newly debuted Aero body kit litters the track at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.[Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  15. Lightning-Devils preview, 7:30 Thursday, Amalie Arena

    Lightning Strikes


    Lightning vs Devils

    When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

    Key stats: The Lightning's once-struggling power play has scored in four consecutive games. … The Lightning entered Wednesday ranked eighth in penalty kill (83.7 percent). … The Devils have lost eight of their past nine games; the exception was Friday's 3-2 shootout win over the Canadiens. … New Jersey was outshot 39-21 in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Rangers. … The Lightning has lost both previous meetings this year, including a December shootout 3-2. … G Ben Bishop is coming off his fourth shutout of the season. … LW Mike Cammalleri leads New Jersey with 27 goals but has only two in his past nine games....