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Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801


Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - and just missed a solo homer that was replay reversed into a double - as part of a three hit night. In 60 games since his late-June return, Ramos is hitting .262 with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a .735 OPS....

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.

    The Rays made the bold move to sign C Wilson Ramos as he recovered from knee surgery, primarily for 2018. Despite some stretches of inconsistency, he's giving them a good glimpse, with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in 60 games, though he needs to improve defensively....

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb may have pitched last game in Rays uniform (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — RHP Alex Cobb pitched well enough to lead the Rays to an 8-3 win over the Orioles on Friday.

    And he might have pitched for the last time as a Ray.

    With his innings total pushing 180 in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, with his 12-10 record and 3.66 ERA a proper reflection of his good work, and with his Rays team all but officially out of the playoff race, Cobb might skip his final start slated for Thursday in New York....

    Wilson Ramos gives thanks after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    Not as bad of a move as leaving Josh Hamilton exposed in the Rule 5 draft, or taking Tim Beckham over Buster Posey, or signing Pat Burrell.

    But still bad.

    Actually, it looked bad most of the time since the December 2014 blockbuster, when the Rays shipped outfielder Wil Myers to San Diego, then flipped two key pieces of the return, pitcher Joe Ross and (then to-be-named) infielder Trea Turner, to Washington for Souza....

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.
  5. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

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

    Rays info: Toll-free 1-888-326-7297

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Jake Odorizzi (9-8, 4.46)

    ORIOLES: RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 5.47)

    On Odorizzi: Beat Red Sox on Sunday, taking no-hitter into sixth for second time in three starts. Has allowed 30 homers. Is 4-4, 5.27 in 16 games vs. Orioles, 2-3, 6.21 in eight at Camden....

    Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) attempts to pick off New York Yankees' Aaron Judge at first base during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) NYJJ103
  6. For starters: Rays at Orioles, with Cobb on hill, Beckham in lineup


    UPDATE, 3:46: After sitting out Thursday in recovering from extraction of a tooth, former Rays SS Tim Beckham is in the Orioles lineup tonight for his first game against his ex-mates, batting leadoff and playing short.

    Orioles lineup:
    Beckham ss
    Machado 3b
    Schoop 2b
    Jones cf
    Mancini lf
    Davis 1b
    Hays rf
    Alvarez dh
    Joseph c
    Jimenez p...

  7. Rays morning after: Matt Andriese trying to put good finish on injury-marred season


    RHP Matt Andriese can't make up for the 2-1/2 months he missed due to a hip injury this season after getting off to a solid 5-1, 3.54 start.

    But he can use his last few outings to remind the Rays, and himself, of how good he can be.

    He did it the hard way Thursday, allowing three runs as four of the first five Orioles rapped hits, then settling down and settling in work six solid innings, allowing only two more hits and turning it into a quality start....

    Matt Andriese will have the chance to put a solid finish on his season Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
  8. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    • Based purely on performance, it seems the Orioles clearly came out ahead, but …

    The Rays traded Beckham to open second base for Brad Miller to play every day (after acquiring Lucas Duda to DH), and that hasn't gone well, as Miller is hitting .190 with four homers, nine RBIs and a .636 OPS in 44 games since....

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  9. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    The Rays still talk about having a shot to make the playoffs. But recognizing and correcting mistakes will help them next year, such as Mallex Smith trying to steal third in the first. "Those are the little things we've got to find how to eliminate real quick," manager Kevin Cash said.

    Give RHP Matt Andriese credit. After pitching really bad in the first, giving up three runs as he was working more on settling in than getting outs, he pitched really well after that. He got through six innings with no more runs, so thus a quality start....

  10. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    And then Andriese nearly didn't make it out of the first.

    But after allowing hits to four of the first five Orioles, and three runs in the process, Andriese settled down and settled in to work six solid innings. The Rays, though, could not get out of that hole and lost 3-1, dropping to 74-79 and all but out of the crowded race for the final American League playoff spot....

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings
  11. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Friday, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63)

    ORIOLES: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57)

    On Cobb: Took loss vs. Red Sox on Saturday, charged with three runs. After 4-5, 4.52 start in 12 games, he's 7-5, 2.98 over past 16. Is 5-2, 2.54 in 11 starts vs. Orioles, 1-1, 4.42 in three this season. ...

    Baltimore Orioles' Ubaldo Jimenez poses during the team's photo day at spring training baseball in Sarasota, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  12. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    UPDATE, 6:05: Cash gave both CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria a day off, noting they have been playing pretty much everyday. ... That also gave them a chance to look more at two of their younger position players, OF Mallex Smith and INF Daniel Robertson. ... Cash said he was happy for Beckham that he was doing wel, Beckham said it "will be fun" to face his former mates but didn't have much else to say about the Rays, that it was "in the past.'' ... LHP Xavier Cedeno, activated off the 60-day DL, is likely to get a couple appearances. ... Cash said starter RHP Matt Andriese is among the Rays that could benefit from a strong finish to the season. ... Though four games and fives teams back of the second wild-card, Cash said they just have to focus on playing well and winning games and hope other teams lose....

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  13. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Ben Zobrist never got much attention for how he played and certainly not how he carried himself during those nine seasons with the Rays.

    Even though he was good enough to make two American League All-Star teams, earn a big deal worth nearly $30 million over six years, and compile a 36.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement rating, per that ranks behind only Evan Longoria among all Tampa Bay players....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) pitches out of a bases loaded situation in the fifth inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  14. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    One success story of this lost season is the emergence of LHP Blake Snell as the frontline starter the Rays projected. After a rough start and two demotions, he has been rolling, Wednesday's solid seven innings making him 4-0, 2.57 in his past eight starts.

    Was it just coincidence that the Rays perfectly executed the first-and-third squeeze play that now-Cubs manager Joe Maddon liked so much and learned from Don Zimmer, whose widow, Soot, was at the game and whose grandson threw out the first pitch?...

  15. For starters: Rays vs. Cubs, trying to get even with Joe Maddon


    After a tough 2-1 loss on Tuesday, the Rays take on the Cubs again tonight, looking to split the two-game series with former manager Joe Maddon.

    The Rays are starting young LHP Blake Snell, and the Cubs are starting veteran LHP Jon Lester.

    Here is the Rays lineup:

    Kiermaier cf,
    Souza RF,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Ramos c,
    Hechavarria SS,
    Puello DH,
    Miller 2B,
    Bourjos lf,
    Snell P...

    The Rays are starting young lefty Blake Snell.