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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. Florida State will bench Jameis Winston for first half over remarks

    College

    Jameis Winston, Florida State's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, will miss the first half of Saturday's prime-time game against No. 22 Clemson for making "offensive and vulgar" remarks on campus, the school announced Wednesday.

    "Student-athletes are expected to act in a way that reflects dignity and respect for others," FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox and interim president Garnett Stokes said in a statement. "As a result of his comments (Tuesday), which were offensive and vulgar, Jameis Winston will undergo internal discipline and will be withheld from competition for the first half of the Clemson game."...

    Deadspin.com published a collection of tweets from students who claimed Jameis Winston yelled a crude remark while standing on top of a table on campus Tuesday. [Getty Images]
  2. Falcons coach wary of Bucs' Bobby Rainey

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Falcons coach Mike Smith didn't need to see RB Bobby Rainey's 144-yard game Sunday to know the Bucs backup's potential. Smith saw it last year, when Rainey ran for 163 yards in a 41-28 win over Atlanta.

    "That was kind of his coming-out party," Smith said. "… There's not a whole lot of area to hit. You've got shoulder pads and knees — that's about it. He's very compact."...

    Bobby Rainey runs up the middle for seven yards during the Bucs' loss to the Rams. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  3. Lovie Smith on NFL problems: 'I believe in the shield'

    Blog

    TAMPA - The off-the-field problems continue to swirl in the NFL, with high-profile stars like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy drawing scorn from fans and some sponsors for legal trouble....

  4. Matt Ryan: Lovie Smith defenses are always disciplined

    Blog

    TAMPA – Falcons QB Matt Ryan seems to have plenty of respect for the Bucs’ defense heading into Thursday’s primetime matchup against the Bucs in Atlanta....

  5. Rays: Derek Jeter quote, story, connection of the day

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Yankees

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports, 620-AM

    Tickets: $21-$275, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Jake Odorizzi (10-12, 4.08)

    YANKEES: RH Michael Pineda (3-4, 2.20)...

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 05: Michael Pineda #35 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning of a MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on September 5, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) 477589395
  6. Nick Franklin to make Rays starting debut today

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays will get their first up-close look at another part of the David Price deal today.

    Manager Joe Maddon plans to put INF Nick Franklin at second base tonight, a day after Franklin joined the club after the end of Triple-A Durham's season. Maddon plans to juggle the infield without shutting anyone down to give his new utility player plenty of opportunities....

    Seattle Mariners' Nick Franklin in action during a a spring exhibition baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
  7. For starters, Rays vs. Yankees and the beginning of Derek Jeter's farewell to the Trop

    Blog

    UPDATE, 4:58: Apparently Derek Jeter's news conference is about the only thing he'll be doing today.

    Jeter isn't in the lineup as the Yankees begin a three-game series against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

    In actual Rays news, INF Nick Franklin - one of the parts the Rays landed in the David Price deal - joined the team today. Franklin isn't in the lineup today, but manager Joe Maddon said he plans to mix in Franklin at second base during the rest of the season....

  8. Josh McCown on interception: 'Bad decision'

    Blog

    TAMPA - QB Josh McCown’s strong start ended with a costly turnover in Sunday's 19-17 home loss to St. Louis.

    McCown completed his first eight passes for 78 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 5-yard rush. Then on first and goal from the 9, McCown ran into trouble. He rolled right and forced a pass toward the middle of the field for Vincent Jackson. St. Louis S Rodney McLeod intercepted it for McCown’s third interception in his first six quarters as a Buc. ...

  9. Special teams mistakes prove costly for Bucs

    Bucs

    The Bucs hurt themselves with two costly mistakes on special teams Sunday. After the second-quarter rain delay, St. Louis S T.J. McDonald ran practically untouched through the Bucs' line to block Michael Koenen's punt, giving the Rams the ball at the Bucs' 28. Six plays later, St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein booted a 36-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 10-7 lead. Koenen hadn't had a punt blocked since Oct. 14, 2012 against the Chiefs — a span of 151 consecutive punts. McDonald wasn't done yet. He shot through the gap to block a 24-yard field goal attempt by Patrick Murray on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was the first field goal attempt in Murray's career after he beat out veteran Connor Barth for the starting job in the preseason. Murray said the kick wasn't low, but he couldn't tell what happened. "To be honest, I didn't see anything," said Murray, who later made a 36-yarder. "My job is to keep my head down and get the ball through the post. I didn't look at the line." The Rams capitalized, ending the ensuing drive with Zuerlein's 46-yard field goal to put St. Louis ahead 16-14. "The offense was able to get a little more pop, a little more juice going back out there on the field knowing that we didn't give up the points," McDonald said....

  10. Lightning delays Bucs-Rams game for 51 minutes

    Bucs

    The game paused shortly after 5 p.m. because of lightning in the area. Raymond James Stadium blared weather-themed songs, like Blind Melon's "No Rain" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" during the 51-minute delay.

    After a short shower, the game resumed with 6:03 left in the second quarter.

    The storm also validated a move Bucs coach Lovie Smith made in the summer. He was the butt of a few jokes for scheduling training camp during the afternoon, when summer showers are common in Florida. Lightning delayed the first and final days of camp, but Smith those storms could prepare the Bucs for anything they encountered during the season....

    Fans exit the stands as the Bucs and St. Louis Rams game is delayed due to severe weather at Raymond James Stadium. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  11. Blocked kicks doom Bucs

    Blog

    TAMPA - The Bucs hurt themselves with two costly mistakes on special teams in the Rams' 19-17 win.

    After the second-quarter rain delay, St. Louis S T.J. McDonald ran practically untouched through the Bucs’ line to block Michael Koenen’s punt, giving the Rams the ball at the Bucs’ 28. Six plays later, St. Louis’ Greg Zuerlein booted a 36-yard field goal to give St. Louis a 10-7 lead....

  12. Bucs' Evans understood 10-second runoff rule

    Bucs

    WR Mike Evans quickly turned from a potential hero to the final piece of Sunday's losing effort. The rookie first-rounder soared for a 32-yard pass from QB Josh McCown on the Bucs' final drive and took a hard hit from St. Louis S T.J. McDonald at the Rams' 32 — close enough for the Bucs to spike the ball and attempt a potentially game-winning 50-yard field goal. Evans said the hit was legal, but the blow hurt his back. Evans said TE Brandon Myers pulled him up, but officials blew the whistle before he could get off the field. Because the Bucs had no timeouts left, referees applied the mandatory 10-second runoff — a rule designed to keep players from faking injuries to stop the clock — and declared the game over. "I knew the rule," said Evans, who had four catches for 49 yards and red marks on his back after the game. "It was a big hit. It kind of boggled me a little bit. I was trying to get up and get on the ball."...

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) remains down after getting hit as he catches a 29-yard pass from quarterback Josh McCown on the final play of the game. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  13. Bucs abandon pass in red zone after interception

    Bucs

    QB Josh McCown's strong start ended with a costly turnover. McCown completed his first eight passes for 78 yards and scored the game's first touchdown on a 5-yard rush. And on his next possession, McCown took the Bucs to a first and goal from the 9, But that's where he ran into trouble, rolling right and forcing a pass toward the middle for Vincent Jackson. St. Louis S Rodney McLeod intercepted it for McCown's third interception in his first six quarters as a Buc. "It was a bad decision again," McCown said. "I just got outside and saw Vincent. I thought he was coming underneath the guy and I tried to get him the ball coming across. Vincent said he collided with the guy and didn't get there. I've just got to throw that one away and live to play another day." The turnover ended a potential scoring drive and appeared to change the Bucs' tone in scoring position. They didn't throw the ball in their final eight plays inside the red zone after that turnover and got only three points out of their final two trips inside the Rams' 20. "It stopped momentum," Smith said....

  14. Mike Evans on Bucs' loss: 'I'm the guy that could have changed that'

    Blog

    TAMPA - WR Mike Evans quickly turned from a potential hero to the final part of the losing effort.

    The rookie first-rounder soared for a 32-yard pass from QB Josh McCown on the Bucs’ final drive and took a hard hit from St. Louis S T.J. McDonald at the Rams’ 32. Evans said the hit was clean, but the blow hurt his back, and he struggled to get up as the final seconds ticked down....