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: Bucs great Derrick Brooks on hand

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Brewers

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $11-200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Jake Odorizzi (6-8, 3.97)

    BREWERS: RH Kyle Lohse (11-4, 3.07)...

    Derrick Brooks throws out the first pitch before the MLB game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 27, 2014.
  2. Derrick Brooks' greatness started in Pensacola



    Derrick Brooks was only a sophomore when Jimmie Nichols first realized how special Brooks could be.

    The longtime Panhandle high school football coach had seen that kind of talent, charisma and determination only once before, when Emmitt Smith began his run toward the Hall of Fame. Two years later, Nichols knew he had another once-in-a-lifetime player.

    "After being around Emmitt, you kind of get the feeling that this guy's special. There's something special here, and he's going to do special things," Nichols said. "And he did. Over and over and over and over."...

    Derrick Brooks helped lead Pensacola Washington High to the Class 5A state semifinals as a junior.
  3. Rays-Brewers preview

    The Heater

    . UP NEXT

    vs. Brewers


    What's new: The Brewers have led the NL Central every day since April 5 thanks to a solid offense. They are second in the league in runs (464) and home runs (108). C Jonathan Lucroy is sixth in the league with a .310 batting average and leads the NL with a .349 average on the road. Ryan Braun is averaging an RBI every 5.5 at-bats, tops in the league. Francisco Rodriguez has closed out 30 of his 34 save opportunities and is third in the NL in saves. Milwaukee is 9-6 in interleague games this year....

  4. Rays manager Maddon happy with series win over Red Sox

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — With the Rays' nine-game winning streak over, manager Joe Maddon was quick to point out that the Rays accomplished their main objective toward a meaningful September: Taking two of three games against the Red Sox.

    "Don't forget that the goal was to win the series," Maddon said, "and we won the series once again."

    The franchise had won nine games in a row only once before, earning 12 consecutive victories in June 2004. The Rays were trying to become the sixth team in the past 25 years to have a 10-game winning streak and a 10-game losing streak in the same season....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jake McGee (57) gets a high five from manager Joe Maddon (70) after striking out Boston Red Sox third baseman Brock Holt (26) to end the Boston Red Sox at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 25, 2014.
  5. Red Sox break streak, leave Rays fuming over Ortiz (video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After two fairly peaceful games, the drama returned to the Rays' rivalry with the Red Sox in their 3-2 loss Sunday at Tropicana Field.

    David Ortiz's three-run home run off Chris Archer snapped the Rays' nine-game winning streak, and his ensuing actions sparked the latest chapter in the simmering rivalry between the AL East's bottom two teams.

    The controversy came in the third inning, after Archer walked Daniel Nava and gave up an infield single to Dustin Pedroia. Ortiz followed by blasting a 3-and-2 changeup an estimated 376 feet into the rightfield stands....

    Red Sox DH David Ortiz follows through on a three-run home run off Chris Archer in the third inning, giving Boston a 3-0 lead. Ortiz follows the homer with an exaggerated bat toss and a slow trot around the bases that gets Archer’s goat.
  6. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox



  7. Rays shut out Red Sox for ninth straight win

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As the Rays try to make a historic comeback and climb back into the playoff picture, they'll take a win any way they can get it.

    Saturday night, their ninth in a row came thanks to Boston's missed chances in the field, the dugout and even the stands. Those plays, plus one of Grant Balfour's best outings of the year, resulted in a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. ...

    Ben Zobrist gives the Rays an insurance run with a solo home run off Red Sox starter John Lackey in the seventh.
  8. Rays: Children get to work out at Trop

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Red Sox

    When/where: 1:40 today; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $21-300, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Chris Archer Christmas stockings; Imagination Movers postgame concert

    Probable pitchers...

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait at Charlotte Sports Park during photo day on February 26, 2014 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  9. Rays drop reliever to make room for Jeremy Hellickson

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rays had to make a roster move to add RHP Jeremy Hellickson back to the rotation, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo was the somewhat surprising odd man out.

    The Rays designated the 32-year-old reliever for assignment before Saturday's 3-0 win against the Red Sox to open up a spot for Hellickson, who was recalled from Class A Charlotte and started the game. They have 10 days to trade Oviedo or place him on waivers....

Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (46) strikes out Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles (4) to end the top of the eighth inning during the Cleveland Indians against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, May 10, 2014.
  10. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox


    DEVELOPING: The Rays will vie for their ninth consecutive victory tonight when they host the Red Sox in the second game of their three-game series....

  11. Rays beat Red Sox 6-4 for eighth straight win

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the Rays' opening game of a pivotal home series against a fierce, bitter rival, manager Joe Maddon liked the fire he saw with ace David Price and slugger Evan Longoria leading the charge in Friday night's 6-4 comeback win over Boston.

    "A little bit of the swagger is back," Maddon said.

    The Rays (50-53) had a reason to regain confidence after securing their eighth win in a row — tied for the second-longest streak in club history — and doing so after falling behind against one of the league's hottest pitchers. ...

    The Rays’ Brandon Guyer and Red Sox’s David Ross look to umpire Bill Miller on Evan Longoria’s three-run double in the seventh.
  12. Rays: Special guest; no fireworks; longest win streaks


    Rays vs. Red Sox

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $21-300; available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: Rays tote bag

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 2.08)...

    FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  John Lackey #41 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during Boston Red Sox Photo Day on February 23, 2014 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  13. Joel Peralta could return to Rays' bullpen next week

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon received good news Friday in his quest to pluck midseason acquisitions from the Rays' disabled list.

    RHP Joel Peralta could be back in the bullpen early next week after recovering from an unknown illness he contracted during a visit home to the Dominican Republic over the All-Star break.

    Peralta initially believed he had the mosquito-transmitted chikungunya virus, but he said tests didn't show any reason for his high fever and joint pain. Peralta said he began feeling better Tuesday. ...

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Joel Peralta (62) throwing in the eighth inning of the Kansas City Royals at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.
  14. For starters, Rays vs. Red Sox



    David Price (10-7, 3.07) is vying for his sixth consecutive victory.