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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 late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

    Pruitt seemed likely to be sent down to make room for LHP Blake Snell, who is rejoining the rotation, with RHP Erasmo Ramirez going to the bullpen.

    Alvarado's demotion was warranted as the 22-year-old rookie has been struggling mightily since an impressive first month after his unexpected promotion from Double-A, allowing runs in five of his last six outings and taking three losses.

    The Rays didn't have any obvious replacements, but are turning to Kolarek, who had been pitching well for them at Triple-A Durham, posting a 1.36 ERA for 33 innings over 31 games, allowing 26 hits and 12 walks with 29 strikeouts....

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb brilliant, Alex Colome worrying in 10-inning victory (w/video)

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — RHP Alex Cobb couldn't have been much better for the Rays on Tuesday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning while working eight solid. And Alex Colome couldn't have been much worse, blowing a two-run ninth-inning lead.

    But things turned out all right, as the Rays rallied to take advantage of Pirate miscues in the 10th and scored a 4-2 win.

    They won when Steven Souza Jr. singled against former Rays minor-leaguer Felipe Rivero, who'd been scored on once in his previous 18 outings. Wilson Ramos then lashed a ball to third that David Freese misplayed, Souza coming around to score on an wisely aggressive send by third-base coach Charlie Montoyo. They added the other without a hit as Ramos went to second on a walk and third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly....

    Rays starter Alex Cobb carries a no-hitter into the seventh and pitches eight shutout innings in his best outing of the season.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Pirates game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb continues to look better and better, which could make the decision whether to trade him tougher. Cobb had a no-hitter through six and threw his biggest pitch with a 1-0 lead in the seventh, getting Josh Bell to roll into a double play.

    The Rays have talked openly of their need for bullpen help, either internal or external, to help get the ball to closer Alex Colome. But now they have something else to worry about, as Colome had a third straight rough outing, letting a two-run ninth-inning lead get away....

  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    But as the ramifications of Monday's trade spread through their clubhouse and onto the field in Tuesday's 4-2, 10-inning win over the Pirates — including Hechavarria introducing himself with a dazzling play — there was one significant thing unsaid:...

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park, Pittsburgh

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

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

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: LH Blake Snell (0-4, 4.71)

    PIRATES: RH Ivan Nova (7-5, 3.06)

    On Snell: Rejoins rotation after six-week stint at Triple A, going 5-0, 2.66 in seven starts, getting through six innings five times. In eight before his demotion, he made it through six once....

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Blake Snell #4 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)
  6. Rays sign first-round pick Brendan McKay to record bonus

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — Determining whether top draft pick Brendan McKay will be more productive as a pitcher or a hitter or can handle the demands of doing both professionally will be a long endeavor that could take years.

    But the Rays and McKay were able to get the process started fairly quickly, agreeing Tuesday night to a deal that will pay the No. 4 overall pick a $7,007,500 bonus. That's the highest under the current draft system, at least until the Reds come to terms with No. 2 pick Hunter Greene....

    Louisville pitcher Brendan McKay  connects for a grand slam home run during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament against Notre Dame in May in Louisville, Ky. [Timothy D. Easley/ via AP]
  7. Top pick Brendan McKay signing with Rays for $7M bonus


    The Rays are set to sign top pick 1B/LHP Brendan McKay for a bonus just over $7-million, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.

    The deal is expected to be finalized tonight.

    Also Tuesday, the Rays signed 3rd-round pick SS Taylor Walls, who played for FSU.

    Going into the CWS, McKay hit .343 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs while going 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 140 in 104 innings.

    Being a two-way player is unusual, the Rays say that - at least initially - they will let McKay do both and see where it leads....

    Brendan McKay was the No. 4 overall pick in the June 12 draft as he starred as a two-way player leading Louisville to the College World Series.
  8. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down


    UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

    Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Dickerson lf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Souza rf,
    Ramos c,
    Beckham 2b,
    Hechavarria ss,
    Cobb p

    And the Pirates lineup:
    Frazier lf
    Harrison 2b
    McCutchen cf
    Bell 1b
    Freese 3b
    Polanco rf
    Mercer ss
    Stewart c
    Williams p...

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.
  9. UPDATE: Rays finalizing deal to get SS Hechavarria for 2 minor-leaguers


    UPDATE, 4:27: In making the deal, the Rays add an elite-level defender to an infield that could use the help. But it also raises a number of questions, such as will they now move Tim Beckham to 2B? Does this mean Matt Duffy is not coming back this season? Is Daniel Robertson or Taylor Featherston going to AAA? And what of Brad Miller, who was the starting second baseman but has been on the DL with a groin strain?...

    Adeiny Hechavarria is a two-time Gold Glove finalist who could help settle the Rays sometimes leaky infield defense.
  10. 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]
  11. 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.
  12. 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....

  13. 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 right fielder Steven Souza Jr. connects for a single scoring Jesus Sucre  during the third inning. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  14. 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.
  15. 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.