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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 report: Ramirez starting on bullpen day in Bradenton, 1:05

    Blog

    UPDATE, 9:35: Change in pitching plans for the Rays, apparently, as Erasmo Ramirez is now listed as the starter. That makes sense, as he is a potential trade candidate since he may have more value to another team as a starter than the to the Rays as a middle reliever, and it also gets him stretched out for multi-inning work or even as a fill-in starter for the Rays.

    Here is the lineup:

    Morrison 1b,
    Robertson ss,
    Dickerson LF,
    Miller 2b,
    Casali c,
    Smith cf,
    McKenry DH,
    Peterson RF,
    Sole 3b,
    Erasmo p

    No sign Friday morning of SS Matt Duffy, who went to Charlotte on Thursday to have his left heel checked by the doc who did his Sept. surgery....

  2. Rays talking to free-agent C Derek Norris

    Blog

    The Rays are among the teams talking with free-agent C Derek Norris, that Tampa Bay Times has learned, but according to a source as of Thursday night "are on the outside looking in.''

    Norris was released last week by the Nationals - because they signed Matt Wieters whom the Rays pursued - and was paid about $700,000 in termination pay, one-sixth of his $4.2-million arbitration contract. He is free to sign elsewhere and negotiate his best deal.

    Signing Norris, 28, would give the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate, as they otherwise would be picking two catchers from the group of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre, who was acquired just before spring training from the Mariners. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.

    Norris is coming off a rough offensive year in San Diego, where he hit .186 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs, though only a .255 on-base percentage and .583 OPS. While his offense has been in a two-year decline since his 2014 All-Star season with Oakland, his defensive work, specifically his pitch framing, has improved....

  3. Owner Stuart Sternberg doesn't know what to expect from Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Where the Rays will be playing in five or six years is one complex question principal owner Stuart Sternberg is trying to answer.

    STADIUM SEARCH: Top choices are unavailable, but Rays still hope to find a new home in Tampa Bay, Stuart Sternberg says.

     ...

    Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg talks with reporters before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
  4. Stu Sternberg: Top choices for Rays new stadium are unavailable

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed some complications in his team's search for a new stadium on Thursday, yet said he's still confident they will find a new home in the Tampa Bay area.

    What were the Rays' top five choices for a new stadium — three in Tampa and two in St. Petersburg — are unavailable. That may push the team's time line for finding a new site from August to the end of 2017....

    “We’re sort of moving down our list,” said Stuart Sternberg.
  5. Rays' Sternberg says top choice unavailable, stadium search ongoing

    Blog

    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg still expects to conclude the search for a new stadium site in the Tampa Bay area this year, but revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top choice, or even top two.

    "We had some ideas on locations that just weren't available, that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they're off the table,'' Sternberg said in Port Charlotte. "So we're sort of moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4. It's like starting pitchers, you have five of them and sometimes No. 4 is better than No. 2, but rarely better than No. 1. The No. 1 is the No. 1. I hate to be mixing these sort of metaphors, but it sort of works in this case....

    Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed Thursday that they have been denied their top stadium choice, or even top two.
  6. Rays report: Rays host Yankees with ESPN televising, 1:05

    Blog

    The Rays are back in Port Charlotte today to host the Yankees with ESPN televising, first pitch at 1:05.


    RHP Austin Pruitt, one of the prospects making an push for a job in the bullpen, will start for the Rays. LHP Jordan Montgomery will start for the Yankees.

    Also slated to pitch for the Rays: RH Chase Whitley, RH Danny Farquhar, RH Shawn Tolleson, LH Xavier Cedeño, RH David Carpenter....

    Austin Pruitt, one of the prospects making an push for a job in the bullpen, will start for the Rays.
  7. Rays journal: Chris Archer feeling good

    The Heater

    SARASOTA — Kevin Cash said this is the best RHP Chris Archer has looked during Cash's three springs as the Rays' manager, and Archer agrees.

    The yet-to-be announced opening day starter pitched 52/3 innings Wednesday, his longest outing of the spring, in a 7-4 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Archer allowed his first runs of the spring, three of which were earned, and a two-run home run to centerfield to Chris Johnson. But Archer said he threw only six sliders, opting to continue his plan this spring to improve his fastball command....

    Chris Archer gets his longest outing of the spring, 52/3 innings vs. the Orioles.
  8. How the Tim Beckham spring turnaround could pay off for Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — The way last season ended, Tim Beckham could not have seemed more irrelevant to the Rays, sent down after late-season mental lapses, then sent home for September even as two infielders were summoned to fill in off their couches.

    The way this season is starting, Beckham could not seem more important to the Rays, slated initially for a key super-utility role and then, with Matt Duffy's stalled heel rehab, shifted to what looks to be the starting shortstop job, impressing since camp opened with his performance and attitude....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) greets left fielder Corey Dickerson (10) at the dugout after the bottom of the second inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla. on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Dickerson made a diving catch on a liner to left by Baltimore Orioles right fielder Mark Trumbo (45).
  9. Rays report: Archer on mound vs. Orioles in Sarasota, 6:05

    Blog

    UPDATE, 1:16: SS Matt Duffy will fly to N.C. on Thursday to see the doctor who did the Septe,ber surgery on his left heel to see why his recovery has been slow and if some change to his rehab program might help. ... RHP Jumbo Diaz reported to camp, having been claimed on waivers from the Reds while with the Dominican WBC team, and said he is ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen, planning to workout today and throw in the Thursday game,

    Here is the Rays lineup:
    Dickerson LF,
    Kiermaier cf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Miller 2b,
    Rasmus DH,
    Morrison 1b,
    Beckham RF,
    Maile c,
    Robertson ss,
    Archer p...

    Chris Archer is slated for his last long test of the spring, working seven innings or throwing 105 pitches.
  10. Rays at Orioles, 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, Sarasota

    The Heater

    Today: at Orioles, 6:05

    Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th St., Sarasota

    Radio: 620-AM

    Pitchers: Rays, Chris Archer; Orioles, Chris Lee

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

    On deck

    Thursday: vs. Yankees, 1:05. Rays, Austin Pruitt; Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

    Friday: at Pirates (Bradenton), 1:05. Rays, Diego Moreno; Pirates, Trevor Williams...

  11. Rays journal: Answers sought for Matt Duffy's slow recovery

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — The reasoning for newly acquired SS Matt Duffy having heel surgery in September was so that he would finish his rehab in spring training and be ready to start the season.

    But Duffy is still limited to drills and strengthening exercises, not yet having even run.

    And the Rays are seeking answers for the slow pace of his recovery.

    "I hope in the next few days we get a little more clarity," manager Kevin Cash said. "I think we're to the point now that some of these issues might not even be from the actual surgery, and I'm saying that in a good way. Maybe we get him checked out and it's something we can do something different with and treat a little differently."...

    Daniel Robertson needed a moment to catch his breath after his foul ball hit a fan.
  12. 3 takeaways from Rays' 5-4 walkoff loss to Pirates

    Blog

    3 takeaways from Rays 5-4 loss Pirates

    * INF Daniel Robertson has a real chance to make the team. With Matt DUffy out and Tim Beckham sliding into the starting SS job, Robertson could make the team as a utility infielder given the need for a right-handed bat. After a slow start, and the maturity to scrap changes he made during the winter to his stance by adding a leg kick, Robertson has looked better at the plate and in the field. Depending on if the Rays add a right-handed hitting outfielder, Robertson could be competing with Michael McKenry or Nick Franklin for a roster spot. "I'm happy to be out there playing, having fun, feeling relaxed,' he said. "I'm really free of mind right not, letting the game come to me.''...

    Daniel Robertson has a real chance to make the Rays out of spring training.
  13. Cash sees reason for optimism despite bullpen issues

    Blog

    With RHP Brad Boxberger injured, RHP Shawn Tolleson working his way back from back issues and RHP Jumbo Diaz still making his way to camp from the WBC, the Rays have plenty of reasons to be concerned about a bullpen that needed improvement to begin with.

    But having RHP Alex Colome back healthy from the WBC and seeing good things this spring from non-roster veteran RHP Tommy Hunter help.

    And the performance of several others who were not considered prime candidates give manager Kevin Cash reason to feel better about things....

    Shawn Tolleson is working his way back from back issues.
  14. Rays seeking answers on Matt Duffy's slow rehab

    Blog

    The Rays are trying to seek answers about the slow rehab pace of SS Matt Duffy, who remains  limited to drills and strengthening exercises on his left heel and will be sidelined into April.

    "I hope in the next few days we get a little more clarity,'' manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday. "I know we're talking to doctors and stuff like that trying to get a sense. I think we're to the point now that some of these issues might not even be from the actual surgery, and I'm saying that in a good way. Maybe we get him checked out and it's something we can do something different with and treat a little differently.''

    Duffy had heel issues when acquired Aug. 1 from the Giants for Matt Moore, and underwent surgery Sept. 9 with the expectation he would be limited a bit in spring training but ready for opening day. That has not been the case, as Duffy has not started running yet. much less played in any games.

    Cash said Duffy may go to Charlotte to see Dr. Bob Anderson, who did the surgery....

    Matt Duffy remains  limited to drills and strengthening exercises on his left heel and will be sidelined into April.
  15. Rays report: Cobb on mound in Bradenton, 1:05

    Blog

    UPDATE, 10:39: Pirates lineup, with ex-Ray John Jaso at 3b:
    Frazier ss
    Goseelin 1b
    Jaso 3b
    Cervelli c
    Osuna lf
    Ortiz cf
    Wood rf
    Moroff 2b
    Kuhl p

    UPDATE, 9:07: Colome has rejoined the Rays from the WBC, said he enjoyed the experience a lot, his arm feels good and he is excited to be back with his team to get ready for the season. ... Boxberger acknowledged that he won't be ready for opening day and doesn't know how far behind he will be due to the lat strain but still maintains it is not serious. ... RHP Jumbo Diaz had not yet reported as of this morning.

    Here is the Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Weeks DH,
    Souza RF,
    Gillaspie 1b,
    Bauers LF,
    Franklin 2b,
    Casali c,
    Robertson ss,
    Leonard 3b,
    Cobb p...

    Alex Cobb, who last worked in a minor-league game on Thursday, will be on the mound for the Rays.