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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 Tales: 10 smart decisions that helped the Rays get where they are

    The Heater

    The Rays this week will reach the midpoint of their season and, all things considered, it hasn't been half bad. To have logged 40 wins in 77 games without a pitch being thrown by two guys expected to play key bullpen roles in Brad Boxberger and Shawn Tolleson, without an at-bat by starting SS Matt Duffy, and without much from Blake Snell due to inconsistency and CF Kevin Kiermaier, 2B Brad Miller and top LH reliever Xavier Cedeno due to injuries, they must be doing something right. Here are 10 decisions they made during the winter, spring and early season that helped get them where they are:...

    Rays catcher Jesus Sucre is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a single by Steven Souza Jr. during the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Five reasons for the Rays to be encouraged after series win over Reds

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Taking two of three from a Reds team that came in among the majors' worst and on a nine-game losing streak wouldn't seem like much of an accomplishment.

    But after Wednesday's 8-3 matinee win that pushed the Rays' record to a season-high-matching three games over .500 at 39-36 — a win that kept them in control, or as in control as a team can be on June 22, of a wild-card playoff slot and gave them wins or ties in 11 of their past 12 series — they had good reasons to be encouraged....

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Taylor Featherston (21) crosses home plate as Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (39) looks on after Featherston hit a solo homer in the seventh inning Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg. The Rays won 8-3.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Reds game

    The Heater

    RF Steven Souza Jr. made a mistake — actually three on the bases in a fifth-inning sequence and jammed his neck and shoulder sliding into a wall, but he also had three hits and a key RBI in what quietly is a pretty good season, .272 with 14 homers and 47 RBIs.

    What should have been a relaxing finish with an 8-3 lead got a little tense when Tommy Hunter loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Chase Whitley did a good job defusing the threat with a strikeout and a groundout then zipped through the ninth....

  4. Rays overcome baserunning mistakes to beat Reds, 8-3, win series

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made some more mistakes Wednesday — primarily on the bases this time — but they won another game, which ultimately is what matters most.

    The 8-3 win over the Reds pushed their record to 39-36, matching their season high at three games over .500, and gave them another series win.

    The Rays took an early 3-0 lead, though it could have been more had they not made several mistakes on the bases....

    Rays third baseman Trevor Plouffe, facing, hugs teammate Daniel Robertson after hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. For starters: Rays vs. Reds, with no Longoria, Rasmus, Beckham


    UPDATE, 10:37: Cash said Rasmus has been dealing with "a little bit of a sore hip,'' which explains why he hasn't been in the lineup for three straight games. Cash said he is available, but the bigger concern is not making it worse and losing him for a longer period. ... Cash sald this is a planned day off for Longoria, that there is nothing wrong or any injury (foot) issue. ... Cash said there is no good reason or excuse for the poor outfield play, and that playing in the dome is not one....

    Erasmo Ramirez, who may be pitching to keep his job in the rotation, is on the mound for the Rays.
  6. Rays do just enough right to beat Reds (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There have been games when the Rays have pitched well, hit explosively and flashed leather, looking good enough to get you thinking that just maybe, they can be a team that can play competitive games not only into September but beyond.

    There have been games at the other extreme, such as Monday's, when they gave one away to a Reds team that had lost nine straight, and the Friday debacle in Detroit before that, and the lost weekend in Seattle, and so on down a list that has you convinced they have no chance to be in any kind of playoff race....

    Corey Dickerson scores on Logan Morrison’s two-run hit as the Rays go up 3-2 in the third.
  7. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez "not quite" pitching for his job

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Is RHP Erasmo Ramirez pitching today to keep his spot in the Rays rotation?

    Ramirez has not pitched well his past three starts, with an ugly stat line to show for it: 0-2, 9.20 with 31 baserunners (26 hits, four walks, one HBP) in 142/3 innings. And LHP Blake Snell, whose May 14 demotion returned Ramirez to the rotation, is among the potential replacements doing well at Triple-A Durham, 4-0, 2.84 in six starts....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Erasmo Ramirez #30 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  8. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Reds game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb found an old friend, throwing his changeup, which has been mostly ineffective, 25 times in seven innings, with some success. "There's been a lot of good signs with," Cobb said. "Working on making it as consistent as my other two pitches."

    The benefit of acquiring Trevor Plouffe already paid off in that by starting him at first on Tuesday the Rays gave a DH day to Logan Morrison, who had started every game at first since May 6 and could use the day off his feet. And Morrison delivered a key two run single....

  9. Rays vs. Reds, 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Reds

    12:10, Tropicana Field

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

    Tickets: $15-275; available at Tropicana Field box office,, team Tampa store; surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.

    Promotion: Cheer sticks for kids 14 and under; half-price lower corner and upper level tickets via ballpark app....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Erasmo Ramirez #30 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  10. For starters: Rays vs. Reds, with no Beckham


    UPDATE, 5:07: Beckham didn' have much of an update except to say he hoped to be back within a couple days; Cash said that he hopes to not have to use hin tonight or in Wednesday's matinee and then get him back Friday. ... Cash said Ramos and Boxberger both remain on track to return later this week. ... 2B Brad Miller (groin strain) and RHP Diego Moreno (shoulder) are shut down from any baseball activit.

    Here is the Reds lineup:
    Hamilton cf
    Gennett 2b
    Votto 1b
    Duvall lf
    Suarez 3b
    Schebler rf
    Mesoraco dh
    Barnhart c
    Peraza ss
    Garrett p...

    Alex Cobb will be on the mound for the Rays.
  11. Rays morning after: Rookie Jose Alvarado has right perspective, wrong result


    LHP Jose Alvarado has pitched at times like a veteran since his unexpected promotion from Double-A, and after giving up the eighth-inning hits that led to Monday's 7-3 loss to the Reds, he sounded like one.

    "I don't feel that frustrated at all, it's part of baseball,'' he said in Spanish. "Just have to take the good days and the bad days. It's a learning experience and move on, try to do better next time. ... Things are going to happen.''

    The Rays had just rallied in the seventh to tie the game 3-3 when manager Kevin Cash summoned Alvarado for a tough task, knowing he would face Joey Votto, the lefty swinger who is one of the game's best.

    Alvarado got off to a bad start, falling behind Scooter Gennett - the Sarasota High product of the recent four-homer fame - 1-0 before giving up the leadoff double.

    Then he did the same to Votto, who followed with an RBI single that put the Reds ahead to stay.

    "Joey Votto, he's as good as anybody in baseball,'' Cash said. "The only thing and it'd probably be nitpicking, but he fell behind those guys. Saying that, tip your cap. Scooter, he hits a double down the line and then Joey doesn't waste any time and hits a base hit up the middle to regain the lead."

    After Alvarado walked Adam Duvall, Cash went to Danny Farquhar, who eventually gave up a bases-loaded two-run single to Jesse Winker that expanded the lead to 6-3.

    With Alvarado the only lefty in the pen, Cash said that was the right spot for him to face the toughest lefty hitters.

    "You only have one lefty, you've got one bullet, you basically try to save it for that spot,'' Cash said.

    As impressive as Alvarado has been at times, he has failed the Rays twice in key situations in the last week and has a 5.29 ERA. The return of Brad Boxberger, potentially as soon as Friday, could help as the veteran righthander can be very effective against lefties....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jose Alvarado (46) delivers in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader between the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Saturday, June 10, 2017.
  12. Rays lay an egg in series opener against reeling Reds (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Lou Piniella has seen, as he has famously said, some "bad, bad, bad baseball," particularly during the three seasons he managed the Devil Rays. And the Tampa native obviously has been a part of some very good teams during his 18 years playing and 23 managing in the majors, winning three World Series rings.

    Sitting in the Trop press box before Monday's game in his latest role as a Reds senior adviser, Piniella said he sees lots of positives in the current Rays squad....

    Rays catcher Derek Norris looks away as the Reds’ Scott Schebler celebrates a solo homer.
  13. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Reds game

    The Heater

    DH Corey Dickerson and 1B Logan Morrison have been deservedly getting more attention, but OF Steven Souza Jr. is also putting together an impressive season, the home run he blasted off the C-ring catwalk his 14th.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi looked like his usual self rolling through the first four innings, getting soft contact and throwing only 49 pitches. But that changed in the fifth, when he gave up a leadoff homer, and in a 23-pitch sixth, when he allowed two more runs....

  14. Tim Beckham leaves game with bruised left hand after HBP


    UPDATE, 9:04: Rays say x-rays were negative so it's a bruise for Beckham and "day to day" status.

    DEVELOPING: SS Tim Beckham left Monday's game shortly after being hit on the left hand by a pitch.

    Beckham was hit on the fat part of his left hand, near the pinky, by a Scott Feldman pitch in the fourth innung and was obvious pain. He was checked by head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield and stayed in to run the bases, but was checked again after the Rays made three outs and left the game, with Danial Robertson sliding over to short and Taylor Featherston taking over at second.

    Beckham, who has been filling in all season for injured Matt Duffy, has been a key part of the Rays success, going into play Monday hitting .280 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs, both third most in the AL among shortstops....

  15. Rays DFA Michael Martinez to make room for Trevor Plouffe


    The Rays made the first of what will be several roster moves this week, DFA-ing INF Michael Martinez this morning to make room on the roster for INF Trevor Plouffe.

    Martinez was essentially a spare part, starting twice in their last 22 games, and hitting just .077 in 13 games since joining the team in mid-May. The Rays announced plans to DFA him on June 7, but kept him when Brad Miller went back on the DL. In dumping Martinez, the Rays opted to keep Taylor Featherston, who was acquired June 9.

    Plouffe was acquired Saturday for little cost from the A's, who had DFA'd him two days earlier, on his 31st birthday, folliowing a slow start. The Rays are banking he can add some righthanded production to their lineup vs. lefty starters (they face one Tuesday) and be a capable fill-in at third and first base, where Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison have played almost every day. Plouffe - pronounced PLOOF - hit 22 homers in 2015 when still with Minnesota.

    The Rays will be looking at several roster moves this week as they are expected to activate C Wilson Ramos and RHP Brad Boxberger off the DL, and may drop RHP Erasmo Ramirez from the rotation....

    Michael Martinez was essentially a spare part, starting twice in their last 22 games.