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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

Email: topkin@tampabay.com

Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays


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  1. Rays release reporting dates for pitchers and catchers, home spring training schedule

    Blog

    The Rays are getting an early start on spring training, releasing reporting dates for pitchers and catchers as well as the home portion of their exhibition schedule on Monday.

    While deposits are being accepted for season tickets ($100 per seat), single-game ticket sales won't begin until January 12. For more information, see raysbaseball.com/spring or call 888-FAN-RAYS.

    The Rays will play 14 games at the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, and a 15th at Tropicana Field on March 27 vs. the Tigers. They open the regular season on March 29 at home against Boston....

    Kevin Kiermaier, left, congratulates Corey Dickerson, right, after Dickerson homered during a spring training game against the Yankees in March.
  2. Playoffs and debate rage on: Andrew Friedman or Joe Maddon?

    The Heater

    The Dodgers and Cubs winning their way in the National League Championship Series for a second straight year rekindles the question: Who was the bigger loss for the Rays — Andrew Friedman or Joe Maddon?

    Friedman, as the head of baseball operations, led the massive reconstruction from perennial losing Devil Rays to contending Rays, installing a more sabermetrical and analytical approach along with hiring Maddon, before leaving after the 2014 season to take over the Dodgers....

    OT_334501_BORC_rays (02/15/11) (Port Charlotte, FL) VP Andrew Friedman, left, and Manager Joe Maddon, right answer questions during a press conference at the Rays Port Charlotte complex Tuesday afternoon.    [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
  3. Arbitration projections for Rays have some surprises

    Blog

    Estimating the salaries for arbitration eligible players is a key part of the budgeting process for the Rays and other teams, and a tricky one since many aren't settled until January and ones that go to a hearing not until February.

    And with 13 players eligible - third most in the majors - the total dollars allocated will have a major impact on the Rays in 2018, based on how much the Rays have to pay these players, or if they opt to instead trade or dump them, especially with principal owner Stuart Sternberg saying the payroll is coming down from the near $80-million they ended the year at. It's pretty safe to assume all 13 won't be back, as their total salaries last year were about $23.4-million and in 2018 based on these projections would be $41.4-million.

    Though arbitration salaries are determined primarily based on facts - comparisons to other players with similar service time and statistics - predicting them can be very much an inexact science.

    The crew at mlbtraderumors.com has become pretty good at it, and the projections they posted this week seemed both good and for the Rays, potentially in terms of keeping SS Adeiny Hechavarria and shopping RHP Alex Colome and DH/OF Corey Dickerson....

    Closer Alex Colome, who made $547,900 this past season, has a predicted arbitration salary of $5.5-million.
  4. Rays keep Rule 5 pick Kevin Gadea in system, outright him to Durham

    Blog

    Remember Kevin Gadea, the young right-hander the Rays took from Seattle in the December Rule 5 draft and were excited about in spring training before he was shut down with forearm issues?

    He didn't pitch in any games this season, though he still could end up helping the Rays in the future.

    Though players who spent most or all of the season on the DL are subject to Rule 5 restrictions in the next season, the Rays now have Gadea free and clear in their minor-league system for 2018.

    That's because they offered him back to the Mariners, who declined, and then got him through waivers. Thus they were able to then reinstate him from the 60-day DL on Sunday and outright him off their 40-man roster and to their Triple-A Durham roster....

    The Rays now have Kevin Gadea free and clear in their minor-league system for 2018.
  5. What the Rays' coaching staff shake-up could signal

    The Heater

    What exactly where the Rays doing in making such big changes to the coaching staff?

    Depends on how you look at it, but — in different ways — it was just time.

    Time for manager Kevin Cash to get his own staff.

    When Cash took over in 2015, with no previous managing experience, he pretty much inherited the staff, with five holdovers from Joe Maddon's crew and two internal additions in 1B coach Rocco Baldelli and 3B coach Charlie Montoyo. Most new managers get to bring in a couple of "their" guys, coaches they have long relationships and high comfort with. So you could say that after three years, with Kyle Snyder now replacing Jim Hickey as pitching coach and Chad Mottola previously replacing Derek Shelton as hitting coach, Cash now has that, with bullpen coach Stan Boroski the lone remaining holdover from Maddon's staff....

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) in the dugout before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  6. PETA calls out Rays again for sting rays touch tank at Trop

    The Heater

    PETA is calling once again for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at Tropicana Field and not to include one in any new stadium.

    The gist of the complaint by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is the rays are at risk of being hit by baseballs and also "are exposed to constant reverberations from boisterous crowds and handling by many different people at once."...

  7. PETA renews call for Rays to remove touch tank at Trop

    Blog

    PETA has renewed its call for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at the Trop as well as from a planned new stadium.

    PETA took a shot at the Rays majors-worst attendance, the press release accompanying the letter starting with "As the Tampa Bay Rays wrap up yet another season with the lowest game attendance in Major League Baseball."

    The gist of the complaint by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is that the rays are at risk of being hit by baseballs and also "are exposed to constant reverberations from boisterous crowds and handling by many different people at once.''...

    PETA has renewed its call for the Rays to remove the touch tank that holds sting rays at the Trop.
  8. New Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder is here because of connections

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — For a No. 7 overall pick, taken ahead of Barry Zito and Ben Sheets in the 1999 draft, Kyle Snyder didn't turn out — due to a series of injuries and inconsistencies — to be a very good major-league pitcher.

    But those experiences are among the reasons the Rays are confident he will be an extremely good major-league pitching coach.

    In promoting Snyder after arranging the mutually agreed-upon, unexpected departure of highly successful Jim Hickey, the Rays are betting heavily that the personal style, communication skills and pitching acumen he showed at Triple A will allow them to maintain the success they've had and need to remain competitive....

    The unquestionable highlight of Kyle Snyder’s one full season in the majors came as a middle reliever for the 2007 Red Sox, who swept the Rockies to capture the World Series.
  9. Charlie Montoyo, Kyle Snyder excited about promotions with Rays

    Blog

    While the departures of longtime coaches Tom Foley and Jim Hickey still seem jarring, Charlie Montoyo and Kyle Snyder are excited about the opportunity to replace them.

    Montoyo, 52 this month, will move from the third-base coaching job he had for three seasons to become bench coach on manager Kevin Cash's restructured coaching staff.

    Cash said he welcomed Montoyo's help with in-game decision-making, citing the 18 years he spent as a minor-league manager. Montoyo said the promotion was a compliment.

    "I managed so many games that I have an idea about what's going to happen and stuff," Montoyo said Tuesday night. "Kevin trusted me. With Tom next to us, we'd talk about what's going to happen, and that happened a lot. ... So if he asked me questions, I answer them, or I say, 'We could do this, because of that,' and it worked out pretty good for us."

    Montoyo joined the Rays in 1996, shortly after their inception, and managed at each level of their minor-league system, compiling a 1,266-1,142 (.526) record, including a 633-515 (.551) in eight seasons at Triple-A Durham, winning seven division championships and two Governors' Cup titles.

    Snyder, 40, acknowledged the "daunting task" in the unexpected opportunity to replace Hickey, who was considered among the game's best in his 11 years on the job.

    "I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity,'' Snyder said. "I'm excited about the challenge. My main goal is just to build off the environment and philosophy that he's created here the last 10 years, and it led to some of the most succesful pitching staffs in baseball. Definitely enormous shoes to fill.''

    Snyder started his coaching career in 2012 with the Rays short-season Class A Hudson Valley team, then worked his way up to Class A Bowling Green in 2013 and to a pitching coordinator job in 2014 before joining Durham in 2015. In three seasons the Bulls pitchers posted a 3.61 ERA, and this past year set a minor league single-season record with 1,421 strikeouts.

    Snyder, drafted but not signed by the Rays in 1996 out of Sarasota's Riverview High, pictched parts of five seasons in the majors with the Royals (2003-06) and Red Sox (2006-08), playing in Boston with Cash.

    In retooling the coaching staff, the Rays are reassigning Foley and assistant hitting coach Jamie
    Nelson. They are bringing back 1B coach Rocco Baldelli, bullpen coach Stan Boroski and hitting coach Chad Mottola. Still to be hired are a third-base coach and an assistant hitting coach....

    Charlie Montoyo will move from the third-base coaching job he had for three seasons to become bench coach.
  10. Rays pitchers react to the departure of Jim Hickey

    Blog

    Rays pitchers were shocked to hear of pitching coach Jim Hickey's departure and heaped praise on him:

    Chris Archer:
    "Hickey is one of the most intellectual people I know. He's also one of the best people persons I know. The combination of his ability to analyze and apply information, as well as communicate to his players is what causes him to enhance pitchers careers, young and old. From him helping me prepare prior to every major league start I've made to our wide-ranging chats after practice, on the plane, over a meal, I'm going to miss many, many things about Hickey and his influence on our organization.''...

    Said Alex Cobb: "I'm not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There's really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record."
  11. Rays replace pitching coach Jim Hickey with Kyle Snyder

    Sports

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays general manager Erik Neander and manager Kevin Cash had many nice things to say Tuesday about highly successful longtime pitching coach Jim Hickey, but the most telling — and surprising — was goodbye.

    At a time when the Rays plan to continue integrating promising young pitchers into their staff, they also felt it was time — in what they said was a mutual decision — to change the leader, replacing Hickey by promoting Kyle Snyder from Triple A....

    Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey (48) talks with relief pitcher Austin Pruitt (50) in the fourth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.
  12. Jim Hickey won't be back as Rays pitching coach, Kyle Snyder to take over

    Blog

    UPDATE, 7:49: Cash and Neander both expressed appreciation and gratitude to all three departing coaches - Foley, Hickey, Nelson.

    Cash provided some specifics while praising Foley on makign the move:
    "We felt for our current major-league club, I felt a change - with his conversation - was in order and felt Charlie Montoyo as our connection has evolved over the last couple seasons, greatly this year, with his experience as a manager would really be an assest going forward with the in-game decision-making and thoughts that come up. We all know that the game moves quick and you can try to map out decisions as best as all of our capabilites, but things adjust. And I felt that Charlie was really, really good at seeing things before they happen, and providing that heads-up in game will be very beneficial going forward.''...

    Jim Hickey had been with the Rays for 11 seasons and was considered to be one of the best pitching coaches in the game.
  13. Video: Rays head into what looks to be busy offseason

    Blog

    Rays officials talked Monday about starting the process of mapping out their offseason plans, trying to find a way to improve from the 80-win mark. Here is our video report, produced by Will Vragovic:

     

  14. Tom Foley leaves bench coach job to kick off Rays' offseason

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Their season of 80-win disappointment just completed, the Rays officially embarked Monday on what looks to be an offseason of considerable change.

    Following a morning wrapup media session devoid of any news, word leaked of the first major move, with Tom Foley leaving his bench coach position by mutual decision and taking another role with the team.

    Who replaces Foley, a Rays coach since 2002, as the top assistant to manager Kevin Cash and what other changes may be made to his staff for now will be the primary topic of conversation....

    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, left, with team president Brian Auld, has indicated that he’s likely to trim payroll before next season.
  15. Rays journal: Evan Longoria expects to remain with team

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — One subject of speculation for the offseason is whether the Rays will deal cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria before he gains the power of a de facto no-trade clause in April with 10 years in the majors and five with the same team.

    One person not worried about that is Longoria.

    "My plan is to be here next year," he said. "It's really out of my hands. There's nothing I would do any differently. It doesn't change anything for me. ...

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) singles in the first inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, August 10, 2017.