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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. Lightning draftee Cirelli has dizzying climb of prospect ladder

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — It took 14 months for Anthony Cirelli to rise from a center who was overlooked in two junior-league drafts to Memorial Cup hero and third-round NHL draft pick, and the Lightning prospect feels like his head is still spinning.

    "It's starting to hit me now, what's going on and stuff," Cirelli said during the Lightning's development camp that ended Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum. "It's been an unbelievable season."...

    Anthony Cirelli is invited to the NHL draft combine after getting noticed last season in Canadian juniors. The center is later taken by the Lightning in the third round of the draft. “It’s starting to hit me now, what’s going on and stuff,” he says.
  2. Brayden Point, Matthew Peca among Friday's standouts at Lightning prospect camp


    BRANDON - The Lightning's development camp continued today at the Ice Sports Forum with three-on-three games. Some highlights:

    Left wing Adam Erne did participate. He looked fine, despite recovering from a separated left shoulder, scoring three goals in one of his games, with one coming on an impressive slap shot.

    Forward Matthew Peca led all players 12 points and eight goals. Two other big-name prospects, center Brayden Point and 2015 second-round pick Mitchell Stephens, were tied for the lead with seven assists....

  3. Rays' Matt Moore has up-and-down return

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm, all that stood between LHP Matt Moore and a big-league mound was a good night's sleep.

    "I got to sleep at one point, at some point, but it did take a little bit longer than I was hoping," Moore said.

    Moore's start was up and down Thursday. He held Cleveland hitless through the first three innings, then gave up six hits and four runs in his final 12/3 innings....

    Matt Moore makes his season debut after a 14-month recovery from Tommy John surgery. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times] 
  4. James Loney to return from DL on Friday


    The Rays' offense is about to get a much-needed boost.

    The Rays will activate 1B James Loney (broken left middle finger) from the disabled list before tomorrow's game at the Yankees, the team announced Thursday. The Rays optioned RHP Preston Guilmet back to Triple-A Durham to make room for Loney.

    "He's going to help. There's no doubt about it," manager Kevin Cash said. "We're excited to have him back. To be able to plug our first baseman that we anticipated being with us all year back in the lineup, that'll help."...

  5. Rays strike out club-record 19 times in 5-4 loss to Cleveland Indians


    ST. PETERSBURG - Not even the return of All-Star pitcher Matt Moore and a somewhat resurgent offense could stop the Rays from losing for the ninth time in 11 games.

    Cleveland's No. 9 hitter, Mike Aviles, blasted the first pitch from reliever Xavier Cedeno over the leftfield wall for the go-ahead home run in the Rays' 5-4 loss in 10 innings at Tropicana Field. The defeat secured the first four-game sweep against the Rays (42-39) since September 2009 and the first at home in more than eight years....

  6. Former Lightning captain Marty St. Louis retires from the NHL


    Former Lightning captain Marty St. Louis has retired.

    The 40-year-old winger - who was with the Lightning for parts of 13 of his 16 NHL seasons - announced his retirement Thursday afternoon after his run to the Eastern Conference final with the Rangers. He ends his NHL career with 391 goals and 1,033 points in 1,134 regular season games. 

    "I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride," St. Louis said in a statement. "I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents....

    Marty St. Louis spent parts of 13 seasons with the Lightning and helped Tampa Bay win its only Stanley Cup in 2004.
  7. Matt Moore starts well, struggles later in rocky season debut


    After 14 months of rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery, Rays left-hander Matt Moore made his return to the mound Thursday against Cleveland with a successful beginning and rough ending. In his first start since having elbow surgery in April 2014, Moore allowed four earned runs off six hits and two walks at Tropicana Field.

    Moore started out strong, throwing nine strikes in his 10-pitch first inning. He began with three hitless innings before stumbling in the fourth. Jason Kipnis blooped a single to left that dropped on three converging Rays fielders. Moore added two wild pitches in the inning and gave up a run on Michael Brantley's sac fly....

    Matt Moore warms up before Thursday's start against the Indians.
  8. Rays strike out club-record 19 times in 5-4 loss to Indians (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash pointed to the scoreboard in Thursday's 5-4, 10-inning loss to Cleveland as evidence that his offense has emerged from its historic struggle. Their seven hits were more than they had the previous three games combined.

    Except the Rays (42-39) added a different low at Tropicana Field, breaking the club record with 19 strikeouts to lose for the ninth time in their past 11 games and spoil the return of 2013 All-Star pitcher Matt Moore....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jake McGee (57) throwing in the seventh inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, July 2, 2015.
  9. For starters, Rays vs. Indians with Matt Moore's return


    UPDATE, 11:15: RF Steven Souza Jr. isn't in the lineup today, as manager Kevin Cash wanted to give him a day off. The rookie is in an 0-for-23 slump. ... Cash called the Rays' recent offensive struggles a "perfect storm" of slumping offense and standout opposing pitching. That's why the Rays haven't had a base runner through the first five innings of three consecutive games. ... 1B James Loney (broken finger) is scheduled to be reevaluated today after his rehab start last night for Class-A Port Charlotte. Cash said Loney could rejoin the Rays this weekend in New York....

    Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore.
  10. Rays break up no-hitter in ninth, lose again to Indians (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sometime during Wednesday's near-no-hit 8-1 loss to Cleveland, leftfielder Joey Butler said the Rays almost felt bullied as their offensive struggles reached a never-before-seen low.

    Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco's high-90s fastball and wipeout breaking ball led to 61/3 perfect innings, before Butler drew a walk. So when Butler laced a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to end Carrasco's no-hit bid, Butler felt a little surge for a sputtering offense trying to find any sort of spark....

    Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) talks with  starting pitcher Alex Colome (37) in the fourth inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
  11. Rays-Indians preview

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Indians

    When/where: 12:10 today; Tropicana Field

    Radio: 620-AM

    Tickets: $12-$200, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster,, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within five hours of game time.

    Promotion: Rays cheer stick

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: LH Matt Moore (season debut)


    GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Corey Kluber #28 poses during Cleveland Indians Photo Day on February 26, 2015 in Goodyear, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
  12. Excitement level sky-high for returning Rays starter Matt Moore

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After 451 days of waiting, LHP Matt Moore will make his first start today since having Tommy John surgery in April 2014.

    "Being here, it feels like a long time coming," Moore said. "It also feels like just the other day we were kind of getting going and throwing off the mound …"

    Moore has spent the past 14 months rehabbing his elbow, and manager Kevin Cash said he has also been one of the loudest cheerleaders in the dugout. Although his recovery went relatively smoothly, Moore said it was difficult to watch the games without being able to contribute for more than a year....

    Matt Moore starts today for the first time in 14 months.
  13. Matt Moore's excitement level on eve of return? '10 out of 10'


    With less than 24 hours until his first major league start in 14 months, LHP Matt Moore is understandably excited about getting back on the mound for the Rays in his return from Tommy John surgery.

    "Ten out of 10," Moore said of his excitement level.

    Moore said he plans to watch a few innings of tonight's game against the Indians before heading home. Because Moore's first pitch will be at 12:10 tomorrow afternoon, Moore said he might have to go for a jog tonight to tucker himself out and fall asleep early....

    Matt Moore is understandably excited about getting back on the mound for the Rays in his return from Tommy John surgery.
  14. For starters, Rays vs. Indians


    UPDATE, 5 p.m.: 1B James Loney (broken finger) will continue his rehab assignment tonight for Class-A Port Charlotte by playing first base tonight. Manager Kevin Cash said he could return to the Rays' lineup as soon as this weekend.

    RHP Preston Guilmet and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser are both in the clubhouse after being called up from Triple-A Durham after last night's game....

    Alex Colome (3-3, 4.50) will start for the Rays in what could be his last (or second to last) start before Jake Odorizzi returns, possibly taking Colome’s spot in the rotation.
  15. Adam Erne eager for chance with Lightning

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — When LW Adam Erne watched the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup final, the No. 33 overall pick of the 2013 draft had the same thoughts he has often had when watching Tampa Bay play: Sooner or later, that could be me on the ice.

    "I've been thinking that since the day I got drafted ..." Erne said Tuesday after the first day of the Lightning's development camp at the Ice Sports Forum. "There's still work that needs to be put in. But it's not as far away as it was last year."...

    Although he failed to make the U.S. team for the world junior championships in December, Adam Erne led the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts with 41 goals and added 45 assists. [DIRK SHADD | Times (2013)]