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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: Kacey Musgraves added to concert series

    The Heater

    Concert add

    The Rays announced that budding country music star Kacey Musgraves will join the summer concert series. She's scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 25, after the Rays host Baltimore.

    Numbers of the day

    .425 Home winning percentage since the start of the 2014 season

    .609 Home winning percentage from 2008-13

    Rays vs. Red Sox

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field...

    Kacey Musgraves’ follow-up to her major-label debut is expected out by the summer.
  2. Red Sox prove tough matchup for Rays' Chris Archer

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Chris Archer can't point to one or two reasons why he has struggled at times against the Red Sox.

    He enters today's start 1-4 with a 6.03 ERA in seven career starts against Boston; against the rest of the league, Archer is 21-16 with an ERA half that (3.01).

    "It's hard to say, man," Archer said. "I've had a couple outings where I do well and a couple outings where I just don't execute pitches. They have multiple guys in their lineup who can hurt you, just like every other team in the American League East."...

    Rays starter Chris Archer has a 6.03 ERA in seven career starts against the AL East rival Red Sox, a 3.01 ERA against everyone else.
  3. Mock Draft Monday: Jameis Winston ahead with pundits, behind in poll


    The tenure of Mock Draft Monday is nearly over. Which is fine, because I’m running out of unique ways to say that every pundit I track still thinks the Bucs will take Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston No. 1 overall. ...

    Jameis Winston warms up before the Seminoles' Nov. 2 game against the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
  4. Would Hueytown residents draft Jameis Winston (and more story extras)


    When I spent a few days in Hueytown, Ala. last month to talk about Jameis Winston, I ended my interviews the same way: If you were the Bucs’ GM, and your job depended on this decision, knowing everything you know about Winston…would you take him with the No. 1 overall pick? ...

    A plaque in a main hallway of Jameis Winston's former high school in Hueytown, Ala.
  5. Rays manager Cash: Balfour handled decision like a pro

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Kevin Cash experienced another difficult career first Saturday night: telling a veteran he was being designated for assignment.

    Cash said RH reliever Grant Balfour handled the news professionally as the Rays took a step toward Balfour's likely release and eating what's left of his $7 million salary.

    "Very difficult decision with Grant, just because of what he's meant for the organization and the way he's pitched here in a lot of big games, big moments for this organization," Cash said. "It was kind of out of need for our team going forward. We were getting a little short. We need innings. Where we're at with some injuries and situations like that, that was kind of the deciding factor."...

    Grant Balfour struggled since rejoining the Rays last season.
  6. Rays honor slain Tarpon Springs police officer

    The Heater

    Today: off

    Next game: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    Probable pitchers: Rays — RH Chris Archer (2-1, 1.37); Red Sox — TBA

    In memory

    The Rays honored Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek with a moment of silence before the game. Kondek was killed in the line of duty Dec. 21. The club also retired his official radio call sign, 285 — the fourth such honor the team has given to fallen police officers....

  7. Rays fall behind early, get swept by Yankees (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays starter Matt Andriese said Sunday could have been a great bounceback day.

    He could have proven that, with a normal routine, he can pitch deep into games, and his team could have salvaged a win against a Yankees team that entered the three-game series last in the AL East.

    Neither happened.

    Andriese's outing was even shorter than his first, and the Rays were hitless with runners in scoring position in a 5-3 loss at Tropicana Field. A New York team that entered 3-6 swept the Rays (6-7), who have lost four of their past five and five of six at home....

    Aleena Kondek, daughter of late Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek, throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday’s game at Tropicana Field. Charles Kondek was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 21. His official radio call sign, 285, was retired by the Rays.
  8. Kevin Cash on Grant Balfour DFA


    Manager Kevin Cash said veteran reliever Grant Balfour took Saturday night’s news that he was being designated for assignment well, but the move was necessary because the Rays needed more success in the bullpen.

    “Very difficult decision with Grant, just because of what he’s meant for the organization and the way he’s pitched here in a lot of big games, big moments for this organization,” Cash said.  “It was kind of out of need for our team going forward. We were getting a little short. We need innings. Where we’re at with some injuries and situations like that, that was kind of the deciding factor.”...

  9. For starters, Rays vs. Yankees


    UPDATE, 11:17: CF Kevin Kiermaier isn’t in the lineup for a second consecutive day. He was sick Saturday but said he’s available to play.

    RHP Brandon Gomes had a jersey in his locker, but I didn’t see him in the clubhouse. He was called up from Triple-A Durham after veteran reliever Grant Balfour was designated for assignment....

  10. Lightning's Ben Bishop has turnaround performance in Game 2

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Goalie Ben Bishop tried to treat his playoff debut Thursday as any other game but admitted to feeling some nerves.

    In his second start Saturday, Bishop felt comfortable on the ice again and delivered a bounce-back performance in the Lightning's 5-1 win.

    "Obviously a little bit nervous last game," said Bishop, who had 23 saves. "(Saturday) was a lot better — night and day, almost."...

    Anton Stralman congratulates goalie Ben Bishop, who gives up one goal in Game 2 after yielding three on 14 shots Thursday.
  11. Rays lose to Yankees as A-Rod homers twice (with video)

    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....

    After stopping a hard ground ball by Chase Headley, Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera backhands a throw to second to start a double play that ends the seventh inning.
  12. 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....

    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait on February 27, 2015 at George M. Steinbrenner Stadium in Tampa,Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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 has been coming to games for decades, long enough to marvel when Bo Jackson tracked down balls in centerfield. • So take a seat on the hot metal bleachers and ask the man with the Hueytown H on his purple cap about the other once-in-a-lifetime player who came through here, the two-sport star who brought ESPN and Nick Saban to this dot on the map 20 miles southwest of Birmingham. • Ask him about Jameis Winston but be prepared for an answer you won't expect. • "Let me put it this way," McFerrin said. "I'm an Alabama fan, and I'm glad he went somewhere else."...

    At Hueytown High, Winston was known as a bright, athletic kid who had what some called a cocky streak.