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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. Marc Topkin's takeaways on Friday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    Good or bad, RF Steven Souza Jr. tends to make things interesting. Just in the first four innings Friday, he made two diving catches, ran into the wall to haul in a ball and misplayed a ball off his glove.

    Rookie RHP Austin Pruitt has made his rough six-outing start to the season, and his big-league career, look like a long time ago with the way he is pitching now. Friday he worked three impressive innings, showing poise , in keeping the Rays close so they could rally....

  2. Rays at Blue Jays, 1:07 p.m. Saturday, Toronto

    The Heater

    Today: at Blue Jays

    1:07, Rogers Centre, Toronto

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

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

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: RH Matt Andriese (1-0, 3.86)

    Jays: LH Francisco Liriano (1-2, 4.58)

    On deck

    Sunday: at Jays, 1:07. Rays, RH Chris Archer (2-1, 3.94); Jays, RH Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70)...

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Francisco Liriano #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays  poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
  3. Four homers in final two innings rally Rays past Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Blake Snell gave the Rays another too-short start Friday and more reasons to wonder if he really is ready to be a key part of their rotation.

    But his teammates again showed the ability to finish strong, turning the bad beginning into a happy ending by rallying for a 7-4 win over the struggling Blue Jays.

    The Rays evened their record at 12-12 by flexing their muscles, flipping a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 advantage by hitting three home runs in the eighth inning — by Corey Dickerson (his sixth), Evan Longoria (fourth), and Logan Morrison (fifth)....

    Blake Snell gives up only two runs against the Blue Jays but throws 96 pitches in five innings, 43 of them balls.
  4. Rays journal: Blue Jays call up Luke Maile just in time to face Rays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — C Luke Maile was planning on seeing some old friends this weekend.

    Dropped April 2 by the Rays, claimed by the Blue Jays and sent to Triple-A Buffalo, he was looking forward to catching up during a weekend series in Durham.

    Then he got word late Thursday that he was being called up by the Jays. And then he realized when he got to Toronto, he would be playing against the Rays....

    Luke Maile, let go by the Rays just before the season started, is back in the majors with Toronto. He went 0-for-3 Friday against Tampa Bay.
  5. Video preview: Rays at Blue Jays

    Blog

    With a day off to get over their tough walkoff walk loss in Baltimore on Wednesday, the Rays tonight open a weekend series against the struggling Blue Jays. Here is our video preview from the Rogers Centre, with first pitch tonight at 7:07:

     

    Evan Longoria scores as Russell Martin waits for the throw during a game between the Rays and Blue Jays earlier this month in St. Petersburg.
  6. For starters: Snell on the hill as Rays face struggling Blue Jays

    Blog

    UPDATE, 6:10: The Rays had a slight scare during BP when rookie INF Daniel Robertson was hit in the head by a thrown ball. Robertson was fielding a grounder when he was hit, but the bill of his cap deflected the ball from a direct hit. He was checked by Rays staff and said afterward he was fine, more startled than anything.

    UPDATE, 6:05: LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm tightness) had a PRP/stem cell injection today by Dr, James Andrews which means he will have no activity for a month but could still make a return in th second half. ... OF Colby Rasmus is sick today but expected to stay with AA Montgomery for rehab games Saturday and Sunday, with the potential to rejoin the Rays Monday in Miami; though it may make more sense to wait for Wednesday, when they have the DH available. ... To complete the off-season trade of OF Mikie Mahtook to Detroit the Rays got RHP Drew Smith, a hard-throwing reliever who will join the advanced Class A Stone Crabs. ... Former Rays C Luke Maile was called up by the Jays and is in the lineup today, having caught Snell many times on their way up.

    Blue Jays lineup:
    Pillar cf
    Barney 3b
    Bautista rf
    Morales dh
    Smoak 1b
    Pearce lf
    Travis 2b
    Maile c
    Goins ss
    Stroman p...

    Blake Snell will start for the Rays, with plans to go back to the full windup delivery after working out of the stretch exclusively in his last start.
  7. Rays at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Friday, Toronto

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Blue Jays

    7:07; Rogers Centre, Toronto

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

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

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: LH Blake Snell (0-2, 3.38)

    JAYS: RH Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.10)

    On Snell: Catches a break as Jays are without righty sluggers Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki. Plans return to windup after working out of stretch last start. Is 1-2, 4.40 in three starts vs. Jays....

    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Marcus Stroman #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
  8. Rays send Mallex Smith to Triple A to prepare for Colby Rasmus' activation

    The Heater

    With Rasmus coming, Smith joins Durham

    TORONTO — The Rays activated outfielder Mallex Smith from the 10-day disabled list Thursday and optioned him to Triple-A Durham.

    Smith was a catalyst for the Rays until straining his right hamstring April 13. But with outfielder Colby Rasmus expected to be activated as soon as tonight and join the lineup, the Rays sent Smith straight to Triple A....

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 2: Mallex Smith #0 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a bunt single to the catcher during the third inning of a game against the New York Yankees on April 2, 2017 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) 700010215
  9. Rays' Alex Cobb is confident he will find his changeup … but when?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Alex Cobb remains confident that there will be a game, and in the not too distant future, when he has full command of and confidence in the nasty changeup that made him a top-notch starter before his May 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery.

    But until then, his starts are going to a be a battle, a test of guts and determination to get through them.

    That was the case again in Wednesday's start against the Orioles as Cobb was hit early and often, allowing seven singles to the first 11 batters but still managed to claw his way through five innings in a game that was not complete at press time. Shortstop Tim Beckham homered his first two times up....

  10. Defensive shifts can be double-edged swords, just ask Rays

    The Heater

    The Rays have been up to their usual shifty business, frequently bunching three defenders on one side of the infield or the other, certain their data-driven positioning takes away more than it gives.

    Through the first three weeks of play, the Rays have shifted more than any team in the majors (281), according to data provided by Inside Edge.

    Correspondingly, they lead the majors in both saving (17) and aiding (12) the most hits due to their shifted positioning, though it should be noted that shift stats can be subjective, starting with the definition of what constitutes a shift. ...

    Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash (16) in the dugout during the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday, April 6, 2017.
  11. Rays activate Mallex Smith, send him to AAA Durham

    Blog

    OF Mallex Smith was activated off the DL by the Rays and optioned to AAA Durham.

    Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring. But with OF Colby Rasmus expected to come off he DL this weekend, the Rays felt it was better to send Smith to the minors now.

    Doing it that was allows them to keep OF Shane Peterson for a couple extra days, and as protection if Rasmus has a setback. Peterson is out of options so has to be passed through waivers, and potentially lost, before he can be sent to the minors....

    Mallex Smith was a catalyst the first 10 days of the season before straining a hamstring.
  12. Rays journal: Longoria foul ball that spins back fair proves baseball adage correct

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There's a saying among baseball people, even longtimers, that one of the joys of the game is that on any night you might witness something never seen before.

    Which brings us to Tuesday's seventh inning.

    Rays 3B Evan Longoria grounded a ball toward third base foul enough that it hit on the grass 3-feet wide of the line — and then somehow spun fiercely back into fair territory, where Orioles 3B Manny Machado picked it up and, with Longoria understandably getting a late start, threw to first for an easy out. (Go to tampabay.com/blogs/rays for video.)...

  13. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Orioles game

    Sports

    Matt Duffy will be the shortstop when he returns from the disabled list in mid- to late May, but Tim Beckham has been playing big in his place, on point with his defense and clubbing a pair of homers Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

    Kevin Kiermaier has been in a terrible funk, his 0-for steak extending to 17 by the 10th inning against the Orioles. But he still had a big at-bat, down 1-and-2 to brutal-on-lefties Donnie Hart, then fouling off three straight pitches to work a walk that loaded the bases....

  14. Rays off Thursday; up next — at Blue Jays, 7:07 Friday

    The Heater

    Today: Off

    Next: at Blue Jays, 7:07 Friday, Toronto

    Probable pitchers: Rays, LH Blake Snell (0-2, 3.38); Jays, RH Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.10)

    On deck

    Saturday: at Jays, 7:07. Rays, RH Matt Andriese (1-0, 3.86); Jays, LH Franciso Lirinao (1-2, 4.58)

    Sunday: at Jays, 1:07. Rays, RH Chris Archer (2-1, 3.94); Jays, RH Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70)...

  15. Rays morning after: Should Farquhar have replaced Colome?

    Blog

    Was Danny Farquhar the right guy to be on the mound for the Rays in the 11th inning Wednesday?

    Rays manager Kevin Cash had already made one tough decision to have Alex Colome go out for a second inning, wanting to put the one run lead his team had just taken in the top of the 11th inning Wednesday in his All-Star closer's right hand.

    "I've asked a lot of Alex, there is no doubt about that,'' Cash said. "He's thrown a lot for us. I knew I was stretching him, but you want your best guy out there when the game is on the line. so extremely happy with the way he performed.''

    But as Colome started to falter, loading the bases on two singles and a walk and allowing the tying run on a sac fly, then a another walk to reload the bases on his 20th pitch of the inning and 32nd of the night, Cash made an even tougher decision and took out Colome - who had thrown 17 pitches Tuesday after 27 Sunday and 11 Saturday - and summoned Farquhar.

    "I'd asked a lot of him going into that,'' Cash said. "His workload has been fairly heavy. ... We've asked a lot. Alex is going to take the ball anytime you ask him so it's kind of on me to manage that.''

    Indeed Colome said he didn't expect to be taken out then. "I was surprised,'' he said. "I thought he can give me one more hitter because (Thursday) we are off.''

    With no lefties in their pen - which is another issue - Cash has been using the right-handed Farquhar as his lefty specialist, and he summoned him to face Smith.

    It would seem like a tough spot, with Orioles on every base and the game in the balance.

    "I don't think it's that tough of a spot,'' Farquhar insisted. "As a bullpen guy, those are the spots you live for. You want to be in those big game moments. As a reliever you dream for those spots.''

    But it didn't turn out too well, as Farquhar walked Smith - on four pitches nonetheless - to force in the winning run on a walkoff walk, perhaps the most painful of the final pitch endings.

    "It sucks,'' Farquhar said. "It's the walk of shame into the clubhouse and it's a tough night's sleep, tough two night's this time because we have an off-day. So that'll be fiune. You've just got to learn from it. Don't forget about it because you've got to learn form your mistakes. But move on past it because it's a long season.''...

    Rays relief pitcher Danny Farquhar walks off the field at the end of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles. Farquhar walked Baltimore's Seth Smith with the bases loaded and Craig Gentry scored on the play. Baltimore won 5-4 in 11 innings.