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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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Bucs tackle Spence out months after back surgery


    TAMPA — The back injury that has sidelined DT Akeem Spence at the start of training camp required surgery last month and is serious enough that it will keep him from playing at the start of the season.

    "I'm probably a couple more months away," Spence said after watching practice Sunday, six weeks before the season starts on Sept. 13 against the Titans.

    Spence said he was lifting weights and it "caused something in my back to slip," requiring surgery July 2. His timetable for recovery makes him a candidate for the physically unable to perform list, which would keep him from taking up a spot on the 53-man roster but wouldn't allow him to play until after the first six games of the season....

    BLIND CATCH: Bucs receiver Robert Herron, left, gets corralled by cornerback Johnthan Banks as he tries to grab a pass during practice at One Buc Place.
  2. Mike Glennon responds to Bucs naming Jameis Winston starting quarterback


    Quarterback Mike Glennon was searching for words to describe his emotions when he learned that he wouldn't even get a chance to battle rookie Jameis Winston for the Bucs' starting job.

    "I don't know what the word would be," Glennon said after Sunday's first open practice of training camp. "I just want to be out there. I'm a competitor. I want to be able to go out there and help my team win on Sundays."...

  3. Slimmed-down Gerald McCoy feels Bucs' playoff urgency


    TAMPA — The clock is ticking a little louder for DT Gerald McCoy, who is in the prime of his career.

    The Bucs star has been to three straight Pro Bowls and enjoyed one winning season but has had no playoff appearances during his five years in the NFL. That's why McCoy said Saturday he feels the urgency to end the Bucs' postseason drought. Tampa Bay's last playoff appearance was 2007....

    Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy reports to training camp 12 pounds lighter than he was in June and with 2 percent less body fat.
  4. Jameis Winston on being named Bucs' starter: 'I love this opportunity'


    While rookie quarterback Jameis Winston downplayed the importance of being named the Bucs' starting quarterback on the eve of training camp, the No. 1 overall pick said he's obviously excited about the opportunity in front of him.

    "I'm not perfect," Winston said, "but I will compete my butt off."

    Winston, the former Florida State star, earned the starting job over Mike Glennon. Winston's public debut was delayed until Sunday after Saturday's open practice was canceled because of storms....

  5. Former UF, Countryside lineman Tyler Moore signs with Chicago Bears


    Former Gators offensive lineman Tyler Moore has signed with the Bears, the team announced Friday.


    The 6-foot-6, 324-pound undrafted rookie had been with the Storm. Moore, a Countryside High alum, started eight games for Florida last season. Chicago lists him as a guard, although he spent some time at tackle at UF.

  6. Bucs cancel first day of training camp, open practice still on for Sunday


    UPDATE, 4:15: The Bucs will have to wait a day to open training camp. 

    Storms and record-setting rain forced the team to cancel Saturday's first day of practice. The Bucs have another open practice scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

    UPDATE, 2:30: Today's Bucs training camp is now scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Gates will open for fans at 4:30. That's assuming the rain and storms subside between now and then....

  7. FSU is No. 8, Gators and Canes unranked in coaches' poll


    Florida State will start the season ranked eighth in the country in the USA Today coaches poll. The Seminoles, coming off of their run to the inaugural four-team playoff, are the only state team in the top 25, which was released Thursday morning.

    Miami received 16 votes, Florida received two and UCF received one. It's the second consecutive year the Gators begin the season unranked in the poll....

    Defensive back Jalen Ramsey and Florida State will start the season ranked eighth in the country in the USA Today coaches poll.
  8. Tampa named one of five finalists for 2018 world junior hockey championship


    Tampa is one of five finalists to host the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, USA Hockey announced Tuesday.

    The other finalists are Chicago, Buffalo, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

    More than 300,000 fans attended this year's tournament in Canada to watch the world's top players under 20. Tampa has experience hosting other big tournaments; the NCAA's Frozen Four is coming to Amalie Arena for the second time in April....

    Brett Connolly of Canada and Miro Hovinen of Finland battle for the puck during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships in Calgary, Alberta.
  9. Jameis Winston effect? Prices rising for secondary Bucs tickets


    Whether it’s the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston or something else, there appears to be a growing demand for Bucs tickets.

    This time last year, the Bucs’ secondary tickets had a median price of $104, according to Vivid Seats, a secondary ticket marketplace. The average price was 27th in the league....

    Whether it’s the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston or something else, there appears to be a growing demand for Bucs tickets.
  10. Lightning lands eight games on NBC Sports schedule


    The Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup final will pay off with eight nationally televised games, NBC announced Monday.

    The list of games to be shown on NBC or NBCSN includes two Lightning-Rangers games in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final, at Amalie Arena on Dec. 30 and at New York on April 5.

    The other nationally televised games: At Detroit (Oct. 13), at St. Louis (Oct. 27), vs. Buffalo (Nov. 10), at Colorado (Jan. 12), vs. Detroit (Feb. 3) and at Boston (Feb. 28)....

    The list of games to be shown on NBC or NBCSN includes two Lightning-Rangers games in a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference final.
  11. Where do Gators, FSU and Miami rank among top 100 teams ever?


    Only three college football teams in state history rank among the top 100 of all time.

    That's a surprising takeaway (for me) from Sports on Earth's list, published earlier this month. The site used a mountain of data to come up with a 100 percent objective set of rankings. The numbers aren't perfect, as author Matt Brown acknowledges, but they make for fun fodder until fall practice starts. I'm still trying to figure out how Northwestern has as many teams on its own (all before the Truman administration, mind you) as the entire state, but I digress....

    The Gators' 2008 national championship squad ranked No. 64 among the top 100 college football teams ever.
  12. Bucs QB Jameis Winston talks football at Rays game


    ST. PETERSBURG — Even surrounded by his other beloved sport, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston was thinking about preparing for his first season of professional football.

    "I'm anxious," Winston said Sunday afternoon. "I'm just looking forward to getting it started."

    That will happen today, when Winston and the other rookies are scheduled to report to training camp. Winston said he had a productive offseason, and he's more focused on improving every day than thinking about the NFL's history of rookie struggles or whether the starting job is his to lose....

    Jameis Winston and his former coach, Jimbo Fisher, share a laugh after a ceremonial first pitch.
  13. Rays' Steven Souza Jr. frustrated by slump

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Although rookie RF Steven Souza Jr. still can't feel the right pinky he lacerated earlier this month, he insists that has nothing to do with his struggles at the plate.

    "I just need to play better and figure out a way to be not just a productive big-league player but a big-league player that can play at a high level," Souza said.

    Since returning from the disabled list, Souza is 2-for-19 after Sunday's 0-for-3 performance. He credited Orioles LHP Wei-Yin Chen for making a great 3-and-2 pitch that froze him with the bases loaded in the fifth....

    Steven Souza Jr. is 2-for-19 since returning from the DL from a pinky injury.
  14. Rays-Tigers preview


    Rays vs. Tigers

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tickets: $7-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Nathan Karns (5-5, 3.47)

    TIGERS: RH Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 4.59)...

    LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Anibal Sanchez #19 of the Detroit Tigers poses for a photo during the Tigers' photo day on February 28, 2015 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
  15. Matt Moore struggles again as Rays lose to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Starter Matt Moore was staring at his locker with his hands on his head after the Rays' 5-2 loss to Baltimore when reliever Kevin Jepsen walked over to give a fist bump of encouragement.

    Then Jepsen shrugged. There wasn't much else to offer Sunday after the Rays lost for the 21st time in their past 30 games, dropping eight of their past nine series as Friday's trade deadline approaches....

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Florida State University head football coach Jimbo Fisher after throwing the first pitch before the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 26, 2015.