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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 beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    Rookie Jake Faria made his shaky previous outing look like just a blip by working solidly into the eighth. Tim Beckham delivered the big hit they'd been missing with a three-run homer in the five-run second. And the bullpen duo of Tommy Hunter and Alex Colome teamed, somewhat tenuously, to get the final five outs, with huge hand from the steady glove of third baseman Evan Longoria....

    Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini leans into the Rays dugout to catch a foul pop hit by Peter Bourjos for the second out of the first inning.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

    Manager Kevin Cash was latching on to an interesting premise after the game, hoping that the intensity needed to win a close game was better for the Rays than rolling to a 5-0 breeze, "that winning a game like that can jolt you and get you on a roll."...

  3. Orioles Buck Showalter's Trop takedown includes bullpen mounds, bathroom options, bladder problems


    UPDATE, 6:21:  Showalter didn't have much to add during his pre-game media session today, noting how old the Trop, which opened in 1990, is - older then Camden Yards - and complimenting the Rays for the work they have done on it.

    "They do a good job with a challenging facility,'' he said. "I can't imagine anything else - if there was something else, they would do it.''

    He did again mention the safety issue of having the bullpen mounds on the field, suggesting the players association get involved, and that he hopes all fields eliminate them. He also said some stadiums needs more padding along walls. that warning tracks need to be standardized and spring faciities made safer....

    Orioles manager Buck Showalter has never been a fan of Tropicana Field.
  4. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Adding to their woes were catcher Wilson Ramos leaving the game after being hit on the head by a broken bat and needing six staples to close the gash; the offense remaining somewhat somnolent in its fifth blanking of the season; and a costly baserunning mistake by Tim Beckham....

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads off after his sharp ground ball to shortstop with the bases loaded gets converted into a forceout, ending the third inning.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    LHP Blake Snell stepped up when the Rays needed him to — and perhaps when he had to to keep his job — working a season-high seven plus innings. And it wasn't only that he got deep into the game, but how he did so, using his fastball to pound the strike zone.

    3B Evan Longoria had a tough day at the plate. What looked to be a double down the line in the first was turned into a double play by Orioles 3B Manny Machado, and then batting with the bases loaded in the third he hit a sharp grounder SS Ruben Tejada snared for a force-out....

  6. Rays' Evan Longoria: "We have all the belief in the world in here"


    The weekend sweep by Texas and four-game overall losing streak has some Rays fans - based on their tweets and emails - questioning the team's ability to make the playoffs and suggesting they might as well trade away their key parts.

    Obviously that's not the feeling in the clubhouse today, where the veteran Rays remain confident the team - which goes into play tonight tied for the second AL wild-card spot - has what it takes....

  7. For starters: Rays vs. Orioles, seeking to halt a skid


    UPDATE, 5:38: In activating Romo, Cash the Rays are very excited to have him, and are confident he will help them, citing his overall performance in pitching for the Dodgers beyond his 6.12 ERA and the benefit of AL hitters not being familiar with him. ... Cash said Romo's experience in high-leverage and post-season games is also an asset, and that he may have a calming effect on the bullpen overall. Also, the Rays will immeditately put him in high leverage situations. ... To make room on the active roster, the Rays optioned RHP Andrew Kittredge back to Durham, though Cash said they were impressed with his strike-throwing, noting some of other call-ups couldn't do that. ... The Rays made another move, releasing DH/1B Rickie Weeks, who had been rehabbing at Triple-A Durham from shoulder and hand injuries. Basically the Rays opted to keep Trevor Plouffe, who can play 1B, 2B and 3B and be a right-handed bat off the bench. ... Though the Rays got Romo, Cash said the front office is still working hard to make other additions, having been targeting a high-impact reliever and a right-handed bat.

    Here is the Orioles lineup:
    Jones cf
    Machado 3b
    Schoop 2b
    Trumbo 1b
    Mancini lf
    Castillo dh
    Joseph c
    Tejada ss
    Rickard rf
    Gausman p...

     Blake Snell will be on the mound tonight.
  8. Rays Tales: With Rays surprising buyers, a look back at previous deadline deals

    The Heater

    The buildup to this July 31 trading deadline is different for the Rays, for the rudimentary reason that they are working — feverishly, from what we hear — to add on to a team they feel has a legitimate chance to make a playoff run.

    That's right. Rather than being their usual sellers, or seeking fringe additions, the Rays are looking to be buyers — for an impact reliever and maybe a bat, too....

    Tampa Bay Rays left fielder David DeJesus (7) after striking out in the fourth inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
  9. Former Rays/current Cubs manager Joe Maddon featured on NBC Sunday news show


    Former Rays and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon will be featured on this week's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" show at 7 p.m. on NBC, the Harry Smith interview covering not just Maddon's on-field accomplishments but his extensive efforts to help his hometown of Hazleton, Pa.

    "Here's what's so impressive about Joe Maddon. His love, his passion for his hometown is real. He credits Hazleton with providing a perfect place to grow up. "Why," he says, "should today's kids not have every advantage he had?" And it's one thing to say that, it is something else altogether to dedicate his time and energy to try to achieve that,'' Smith told the Times via email. "His professional achievements are impressive. But the most impressive thing about Joe is he's real. And he's a real hometown guy."

    Maddon, who spent nine seasons managing the Rays before joining the Cubs in 2015, still lives in Tampa in the off-seasons. His Tampa-based Respect 90 Foundation works with charities in the Tampa Bay, Chicago, Hazlelton and Mesa, Az., communities. See for more information....

    Joe Maddon talking with NBC News' Harry Smith.
  10. Remember that famous Fred McGriff TV commercial? He's back, in a parody


    If you've ever seen Fred McGriff's TV commerical for Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video it will always be fresh in your mind, with the deadpan delivery and famously ill-fitting cap.

    Now the former Ray and Tampa native, with help from ESPN's Kenny Mayne, is back in a bit of a parody as a commercial for Chassis men's grooming products - powder, cream and gel - designed, per the company press release, to handle sweat, odor, and chafing "down there."...

    Fred McGriff in his new commercial for Chassis, a men's grooming line, that looks a lot like his old one.
  11. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $20-300; available at Tropicana Field box office,, team Tampa store; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game

    Promotion: $7.11 upper-level seats with coupon from 7-11 stores

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

    MIAMI, FL - JULY 11:  Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers and the American League looks on during pre-game ceremonis for the 88th MLB All-Star Game against the National League at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) 700041423
  12. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Souza left Wednesday's game after an awkward first-inning slide left him in pain and with what the team said was a strained hip. X-rays in Oakland were negative, but the Rays said he needed further testing today in St. Petersburg. The concern was elevated because Souza had September surgery on the same hip.

    With the good results from the MRI, the Rays say Souza - among the team's most productive players with a .271 average, 20 HRs, 60 RBIs and an .883 OPS - is considered day to day.

    Souza posted a similarly positive update on his Twitter account:...

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  13. RHP Alex Cobb feeling safer as Rays make playoff push

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Opening a late July homestand with a legitimate run for a playoff berth in sight makes Friday's start a big one for veteran RHP Alex Cobb.

    But were the Rays not playing so well, and Cobb not such a big part of their success, the free-agent-to-be may well have been looking at this week as significant in a different way — his farewell performance in anticipation of being traded by the July 31 deadline....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the fourth inning of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  14. Rays morning after: Steven Souza Jr.'s status is a major concern


    The Rays will know more about the status of RF Steven Souza Jr. later today after reviewing results of a scheduled MRI and exam of the left hip he strained in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.

    "We're actually pretty optimistic that we avoided a major injury,'' Cash said.

    Exacerbating their concern is that Souza underwent surgery on that hip in September and spent the off-season working to recover and rehab....

    Steven Souza Jr. strained his left hip in Wednesday's game on an awkward slide into second.
  15. 2008 playoff thoughts in bloom for Rays; Souza injury not expected serious in loss to A's

    The Heater

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Before the 7-2 loss to the A's and Steven Souza Jr.'s hip injury, or at least scare, Wednesday started with good vibes in the Rays' clubhouse.

    That was the carryover from the stunning comeback win the night before — down a run, two outs in the ninth with nothing doing — stirring some thoughts of deja vu to the improbable run that carried the 2008 Rays to the World Series....

    Jake Faria enters 4-0, 2.00 but finally struggles, giving up four runs in five innings Wednesday.