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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. More roster moves for Rays: Sucre makes team; Casali, Maile optioned


    UPDATE, 10:08: With Tolleson "on the outside looking in,'' the Rays have competition for final bullpen spots among Jumbo Diaz, Chase Whitley and prospects Jaime Schultz and Austin Pruitt. ... Cash said he expects both Marks and Moreno to help the Rays at some point this season.

    UPDATE, 10:03: Cash said RHP Shawn Tolleson is likely headed to open the season on the DL  as he has been slowed by back issues. He also praised Sucre for winning a spot on the team, noting his defensive skills in particular, and said Norris will get most of the playing time....

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Luke Maile plays catch during an open workout at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.
  2. Rays report: Erasmo on mound vs. Orioles in PC, 1:05


    UPDATE, 8:48: Here is the Rays lineup, with newcomer Peter Bourjos getting right to work:

    Bourjos cf,
    Norris DH,
    Longoria 3b,
    Dickerson LF,
    Weeks 1b,
    Souza RF,
    Beckham SS,
    Franklin 2b,
    Sucre c,
    Ramirez p

    DEVELOPING: The Rays are back in Port Charlotte for the first of their final two home games of the spring, facing the Orioles at 1:05.

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is starting today, which could be a sign of either wanting to have him stretched out in case there is an issue with one of the starters (such as Alex Cobb's previously stiff back), or so he can pitch multiple innings if one of the starters gets knocked out early, or in showcase for a potential trade.

    SS Tim Beckham said he will be back in action today after missing the last two games due to a hip flexor issue.

    OF Peter Bourjos has already joined the team, following his Tuesday trade from the White Sox....

  3. Veterans Rickie Weeks, Tommy Hunter make Rays roster; Peter Bourjos trade completed

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The first challenge for veterans Tommy Hunter and Rickie Weeks was showing the Rays after signing minor-league deals that they were worthy of earning spots on the opening day roster, and both got word in advance of Tuesday's contractual deadline that they had.

    Next comes the opportunity to play significant roles.

    In adding Hunter to their bullpen and Weeks to their lineup at least against left-handers, the Rays are turning to experienced options in hopes of big returns. They seem likely to do so again in acquiring outfielder Peter Bourjos on Tuesday from the White Sox but will wait until closer to the noon Sunday roster deadline — an hour before their opener against the Yankees — to decide for sure....

    Rickie Weeks has had an impressive camp while adjusting to a new position, first base.
  4. UPDATE: Rays finalize deal to to acquire Peter Bourjos from White Sox


    UPDATE, 11:00: The deal is now official, Bourjos acquired for cash considerations or a player to be named.

    Though he is a class xx(b) free agent, the Rays will delay the decision on whether he makes the opening day roster by paying him the $100,000 retention bonus. That also gives them the option to send him to Triple-A Durham, as he is on a minor-league deal.

    Bourjos hit .251-5-23 for the Phillies in 355 at-bats last season with a .681 OPS....

    The Rays acquired Peter Bourjos from the White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named.
  5. Hunter, Weeks will make Rays opening day roster


    Veterans RHP Tommy Hunter and INF Rickie Weeks have been told by manager Kevin Cash they will be on the Rays opening day roster.

    The Rays had to make a decision by noon today on the two, as they were classified as xx(b) free agents and signed minor-league deals and either tell them they would make the roster, be released, or paid a $100,000 retention bonus to stick around.

    Both figure to play key roles for the Rays, with Hunter joining a bullpen tha will be missing RHP Brad Boxberger for at least the first month, and Weeks playing 1B (or DH) against lefty pitchers.

    The Rays are in the process of finalizing a trade with the White Sox (for cash considerations) for veteran OF Peter Bourjos, who is subject to the same restrictions, but it appears they will wait on that decision and pay him the bonus. That also allows the Rays to send him to Triple-A for depth there.

    Hunter said this morning he was excited by the opportunity....

    Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Rickie Weeks (8) rounds the bases on his solo home run in the second inning of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.
  6. Rays report: Archer facing Twins, Bourjos coming in


    UPDATE, 10:25: There was some good news on SS Matt Duffy, who said an MRI on his surgically repaired left heel was clean and that after four days of rest - with his heel in a cast - it only felt better today but felt "normal.'' But, Duffy said he will be taking it "super slow" to build up strength and then start further testing the heel, which make it premature to even predict when he will be able to start playing. Duffy did say a similar rest program helped him last spring when he was with the Giants, and he played several months with no issues.

    Chris Archer is slated to be on the mound for the Rays.
  7. Our latest prediction for Rays opening day roster


    Sixth of our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:

    PITCHERS (12): Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Xavier Cedeno, Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Jumbo Diaz, Danny Farquhar, Tommy Hunter*, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Snell, Chase Whitley

    CATCHERS (2): Derek Norris*, Jesus Sucre*

    INFIELDERS (6): Tim Beckham, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Daniel Robertson, Rickie Weeks*...

  8. Rays may be working to acquire outfielder Peter Bourjos

    The Heater

    The Rays' search for outfield depth may be leading to Peter Bourjos.

    There were indications late Monday that the Rays were working to acquire Bourjos, who is in camp with the White Sox on a minor-league deal.

    Bourjos, 31 on Friday, would give the Rays the right-handed-hitting outfielder capable of filling in in centerfield they have been looking for. He has played previously for the Angels, Cardinals and Phillies. ...

  9. Rays at Twins, 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, Fort Myers

    The Heater

    Today: at Twins, 1:05

    Hammond Stadium, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers

    Pitchers: Rays, Chris Archer; Twins, Nick Tepesch

    TV: Fox Sports Sun

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

    On deck

    Wednesday: Orioles, 1:05, Rays, TBA; Orioles, TBA

    Thursday: Twins, 1:05. Rays, Jake Odorizzi; Twins, TBA...

  10. Rays' risk assessment: Backgrounding Derek Norris

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Sitting in front of his locker during his first day as a Ray on Saturday, Derek Norris pointed to the iPad sitting atop a travel bag as a key tool in his challenging task: learning an entire new pitching staff with just a week until the season opener.

    "It's definitely going to be a speed course," the catcher said. "Time is definitely of the essence."

    The iPad was already loaded with videos of the Rays pitchers. Norris also has the personal memory of facing a half-dozen of them during his time with Oakland and San Diego, and others he'd seen throw live along the way, to help him with what will be daily lessons and nightly homework....

    PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres walks to the dugout after the seventh inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on October 1, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
  11. Rays new Trop offerings include Urban Dugout, Fish Shack, Cuban Favorites


    In addition to announcing new head chef Marcelo Miranda, the Rays and concessionaire Centerplate today unveiled a number of new food and drink offerings at the Trop for this season.

    Among the highlights in the release from the team:

    * New to the lineup is the Urban Dugout, a food stand operated by Urban Restaurant Group. Their St. Petersburg restaurants-Urban Brew and BBQ, Urban Comfort, Urban Deli and Drafts and Urban Creamery-serve up fresh goodies prepared from scratch. The stand will feature a selection of favorites including their famous crispy fried chicken sandwich, chicken and waffles, homemade mac and cheese and delicious BBQ plates. Crowd favorites Taco Bus, Pipo's and Evan Longoria's Ducky's restaurant all return this season, as well....

    Urban Chicken and Waffle Cone and Urban Mac and Cheese which will be available at Urban Dugout.
  12. 3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees


    3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees:

    * RHP Matt Andriese needs to pitch better. Given the No. 5 starter's job without much competition, Andriese welcomed the chance to settle into a spring routine knowing he would be in the rotation. But he hasn't pitched well enough to inspire much confidence, Sunday's laborius outing (86 pitches, 51 strikes) the latest example. Over four big-league spring games, Andriese has allowed 17 hits and six walks in 10 2/3 innings, while also pitching in a minor-league game and a sim game. One major issue Sunday was a lack of aggressiveness overall and the absence of his effective off-speed pitches. "I've got to forget about this one and move on to the next one and get ready for the season,'' Andriese said....

  13. Rays journal: A day of injuries, poor performances

    The Heater

    TAMPA — None of these developments may turn out to be serious, but they still weren't good for the Rays on Sunday as they head into the final week of prep before the season opener:

    • No. 3 Alex Cobb didn't make what was to be an extended start in a minor-league intrasquad game in Port Charlotte due to tightness in his lower back. Manager Kevin Cash said the move was precautionary and, from what he had heard thus far, should not impact their season-opening rotation, which has Cobb set to pitch on April 5. "I don't think it changes anything," Cash said. Cobb said via text he could have pitched if necessary and expects to stay on schedule, which would have him making a final spring outing on Friday in Clearwater. "This really is nothing, it's just trying to be smart and feel good going into the season," said Cobb, who has been battling to get his mechanics down heading into his first full season since 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery....

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) delivers a pitch in the third inning of Tuesday’s game between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay at LECOM Park in Bradenton.
  14. Rays off Monday; at Twins, 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, Fort Myers

    The Heater

    Today: Off

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

    On deck

    Tuesday: at Twins, 1:05, Fort Myers. Rays, Chris Archer; Twins, Nick Tepesch

    Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 1:05. Rays, TBA; Orioles, TBA

    Thursday: vs. Twins, 1:05. Rays, Jake Odorizzi; Twins, TBA

    Today's other area teams

    • Phillies at Blue Jays, 6:07, Dunedin...

  15. Cobb scratched from minor-league start due to back tightness


    Rays RHP Alex Cobb was scratched from a planned minor-league intrasquad start this morning in Port Charlotte due to lower back tightness.

    Manager Kevin Cash said they did not expect the issue to disrupt their season-opening pitching plans, as Cobb is slated to pitch Game 3 on April 5.

    "I don't think it changes anything,'' Cash said.

    Sunday was to be Cobb's long start of the spring, when he was to throw 100+ pitches, and then make an abbreviated outing on Friday in Clearwater.

    The Rays probably won't know until seeing how he feels on Monday how best to proceed, but Cobb could just skip this start, pitch Friday and head into the season.

    Cobb said via text he "definitely could have pitched today" and "this is really nothing.''...