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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 morning after: Matt Andriese trying to put good finish on injury-marred season

    Blog

    RHP Matt Andriese can't make up for the 2-1/2 months he missed due to a hip injury this season after getting off to a solid 5-1, 3.54 start.

    But he can use his last few outings to remind the Rays, and himself, of how good he can be.

    He did it the hard way Thursday, allowing three runs as four of the first five Orioles rapped hits, then settling down and settling in work six solid innings, allowing only two more hits and turning it into a quality start....

    Matt Andriese will have the chance to put a solid finish on his season Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
  2. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    • Based purely on performance, it seems the Orioles clearly came out ahead, but …

    The Rays traded Beckham to open second base for Brad Miller to play every day (after acquiring Lucas Duda to DH), and that hasn't gone well, as Miller is hitting .190 with four homers, nine RBIs and a .636 OPS in 44 games since....

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    The Rays still talk about having a shot to make the playoffs. But recognizing and correcting mistakes will help them next year, such as Mallex Smith trying to steal third in the first. "Those are the little things we've got to find how to eliminate real quick," manager Kevin Cash said.

    Give RHP Matt Andriese credit. After pitching really bad in the first, giving up three runs as he was working more on settling in than getting outs, he pitched really well after that. He got through six innings with no more runs, so thus a quality start....

  4. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    And then Andriese nearly didn't make it out of the first.

    But after allowing hits to four of the first five Orioles, and three runs in the process, Andriese settled down and settled in to work six solid innings. The Rays, though, could not get out of that hole and lost 3-1, dropping to 74-79 and all but out of the crowded race for the final American League playoff spot....

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings
  5. Rays at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. Friday, Camden Yards, Baltimore

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Orioles

    7:05, Camden Yards, Baltimore

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

    Probable pitchers

    RAYS: RH Alex Cobb (11-10, 3.63)

    ORIOLES: RH Ubaldo Jimenez (6-10, 6.57)

    On Cobb: Took loss vs. Red Sox on Saturday, charged with three runs. After 4-5, 4.52 start in 12 games, he's 7-5, 2.98 over past 16. Is 5-2, 2.54 in 11 starts vs. Orioles, 1-1, 4.42 in three this season. ...

    Baltimore Orioles' Ubaldo Jimenez poses during the team's photo day at spring training baseball in Sarasota, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  6. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham

    Blog

    UPDATE, 6:05: Cash gave both CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria a day off, noting they have been playing pretty much everyday. ... That also gave them a chance to look more at two of their younger position players, OF Mallex Smith and INF Daniel Robertson. ... Cash said he was happy for Beckham that he was doing wel, Beckham said it "will be fun" to face his former mates but didn't have much else to say about the Rays, that it was "in the past.'' ... LHP Xavier Cedeno, activated off the 60-day DL, is likely to get a couple appearances. ... Cash said starter RHP Matt Andriese is among the Rays that could benefit from a strong finish to the season. ... Though four games and fives teams back of the second wild-card, Cash said they just have to focus on playing well and winning games and hope other teams lose....

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.
  7. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Ben Zobrist never got much attention for how he played and certainly not how he carried himself during those nine seasons with the Rays.

    Even though he was good enough to make two American League All-Star teams, earn a big deal worth nearly $30 million over six years, and compile a 36.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement rating, per baseball-reference.com) that ranks behind only Evan Longoria among all Tampa Bay players....

    Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  8. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    One success story of this lost season is the emergence of LHP Blake Snell as the frontline starter the Rays projected. After a rough start and two demotions, he has been rolling, Wednesday's solid seven innings making him 4-0, 2.57 in his past eight starts.

    Was it just coincidence that the Rays perfectly executed the first-and-third squeeze play that now-Cubs manager Joe Maddon liked so much and learned from Don Zimmer, whose widow, Soot, was at the game and whose grandson threw out the first pitch?...

  9. For starters: Rays vs. Cubs, trying to get even with Joe Maddon

    Blog

    After a tough 2-1 loss on Tuesday, the Rays take on the Cubs again tonight, looking to split the two-game series with former manager Joe Maddon.

    The Rays are starting young LHP Blake Snell, and the Cubs are starting veteran LHP Jon Lester.

    Here is the Rays lineup:

    Kiermaier cf,
    Souza RF,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Ramos c,
    Hechavarria SS,
    Puello DH,
    Miller 2B,
    Bourjos lf,
    Snell P...

    The Rays are starting young lefty Blake Snell.
  10. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    "It was cool. It was very nice," Maddon said. "I appreciated it."

    But for a while, it looked like his current Cubs team — and specifically starter Mike Montgomery, a former Rays minor-leaguer at that — might provide an even more fitting souvenir representative of Maddon's tenure, no-hitting the Rays into the sixth inning. With Maddon at the helm, after all, the Rays were no-hit four times....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the second inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  11. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

    Brad Miller's homer with one out in the sixth ended Mike Montgomery's unexpected no-hit bid, and gave him 61 hits for the season. That's the same as his number of walks. No player with 300 plate appearances has had as many walks as hits since Adam Dunn in 2011....

  12. Rays video tribute to ex-manager Joe Maddon upon return with Cubs

    Blog

    Here is the Rays video tribute to former manager Joe Maddon, who returned to the Trop for the first time on Tuesday with his Cubs team:

     

  13. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, need for new stadium, and praise for Cash (w/video)

    Blog

    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    * He enjoyed the drive over from his Tampa home, chatted with parking lot guard Vinny Paolozzi and other stadium personnel and then headed past the Rays clubhouse that housed his office for nine years to the visiting clubhouse, where two inflated pink flamingo pool floaties (stocked with Bud Light) were waiting in his office. "It was very cool walking in,'' he said, noting he had been through a similar return going back to Anaheim with the Rays. "I was really looking forward to this when I saw it on the schedule. ... Eager to get back. It's good to get back.;;...

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.
  14. For starters: Rays vs. Cubs in Joe Maddon's return to Trop

    Blog

    Joe Maddon's return to the Trop will be the main story tonight, but there is still a baseball game to be played, between a Cubs team surging toward another division title with six straight wins and a Rays team struggling to keep alive a longshot bid for the second AL wildcard spot.

    RHP Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays, seeking to snap a three-game skid in which he has a 14.14 ERA, walking off the mound in the first inning of his Sept. 2 due to forearm tigthness and then having two rough and abbreviated outings.

    The Cubs are starting LHP Mike Montgomery, a forrmer Rays minor-leaguer who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen this season. He also has the notation of being the pitcher who got the final out of the 2016 World Series.

    Logan Morrison is back in the lineup for the Rays, as they are are starting five lefties against Montgomery.

    Here is the Rays lineup:...

    Joe Maddon returns to Tropicana Field tonight for the first time since leaving the Rays to become manager of the Cubs.
  15. For ex-Rays/now Cubs manager Joe Maddon, the legacy is in the jeans

    Blog

    Joe Maddon has plenty of memories of his time at the Trop during nine years of managing the Rays. "Too many to count,'' he said.

    As he heads back under the tilted roof tonight for the first time since leaving the Rays at the end of the 2014 season and taking over the Cubs, he ticked off a couple that stand out the most:

    "Longo's catch of the foul pop at third that put us in the postseason for the first time, the Angels all wearing (the Maddon giveaway) glasses in front of their dugout before the start of our game, beating the Red Sox in Game 7 (of the 2008 ALCS).''

    Asked in Chicago the other day about going back to Tampa Bay and what he thinks he will be most remembered for, what his legacy from managing the Rays and Cubs so successfully will be, Maddon had an interesting answer:

    Jeans and casual shirts.

    Seriously.

    "The only thing I've really focused on regarding my legacy to this point is that fact that I think I really altered dress codes,'' he said. "When I first came on board, everybody was always ... you go to these job interviews and they want to know what your dress code is going to be.

    "And I always thought that the dress code was one of the most absurd things ever invented in major-league baseball, because they would wear all these expensive suits in the hope of winning "because I wore an expensive suit.' And I never understood that. I never understood why it was so important to go from a clubhouse to a bus to a tarmac to a plane to a tarmac to a bus to a hotel lobby to your room and why it was so important to dress up."

    And Maddon was just getting started.

    He talked about ruining "a great pair of white jeans on a bus because the bus had grease underneath the seat" as a minor-league player.

    How dress codes are "crazy stuff that you do because you're attempting to ameliorate the mind of an older gentleman that was taught in a certain time frame that it was important to dress in a certain way to be within a group.''

    And that he does favor dress codes - actually uniforms - for students in parochial schools to avoid "cruel" competition based on what they are wearing.

    And as for the point of those themed dress up trips?

    "I'm poking fun a little bit,'' he said. "Team building, camaraderie. But part of it at that time was just poking fun at the entire method that you had to do this in order to win."

    And then he segued right into other favorite topics, how teams don't need to take batting practice every day and players shouldn't feel the need to be at the ballpark early.

    "The lack of batting practice, altering the work day prior to a game, even when I ran instructional leagues it was important to me to alter the method on a daily basis just so that the guys would not get mentally bored with the whole thing,'' he said.

    "If I learned one thing through economics class is two things: ubiquitous and the point of diminishing returns. Those are the two things I learned at Economics 101. You can't constantly repeat the same method and believe it's always going to be good. You have to alter things. The human spirit needs that. You need a window in your office. You just don't need concrete walls.

    "The other point would be showing up at the ballpark, what time. It's absurd "first one there, last one to leave." I think that is the most incredibly inane concept ever. Work smart. Just don't work. Those are the kind of things that I really wanted to eradicate."...

    "The only thing I've really focused on regarding my legacy to this point is that fact that I think I really altered dress codes,'' Joe Maddon said.