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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. 3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees


    3 takeaways from Rays 7-4 loss to Yankees:

    * RHP Matt Andriese needs to pitch better. Given the No. 5 starter's job without much competition, Andriese welcomed the chance to settle into a spring routine knowing he would be in the rotation. But he hasn't pitched well enough to inspire much confidence, Sunday's laborius outing (86 pitches, 51 strikes) the latest example. Over four big-league spring games, Andriese has allowed 17 hits and six walks in 10 2/3 innings, while also pitching in a minor-league game and a sim game. One major issue Sunday was a lack of aggressiveness overall and the absence of his effective off-speed pitches. "I've got to forget about this one and move on to the next one and get ready for the season,'' Andriese said....

  2. Rays journal: A day of injuries, poor performances

    The Heater

    TAMPA — None of these developments may turn out to be serious, but they still weren't good for the Rays on Sunday as they head into the final week of prep before the season opener:

    • No. 3 Alex Cobb didn't make what was to be an extended start in a minor-league intrasquad game in Port Charlotte due to tightness in his lower back. Manager Kevin Cash said the move was precautionary and, from what he had heard thus far, should not impact their season-opening rotation, which has Cobb set to pitch on April 5. "I don't think it changes anything," Cash said. Cobb said via text he could have pitched if necessary and expects to stay on schedule, which would have him making a final spring outing on Friday in Clearwater. "This really is nothing, it's just trying to be smart and feel good going into the season," said Cobb, who has been battling to get his mechanics down heading into his first full season since 2015 Tommy John elbow surgery....

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) delivers a pitch in the third inning of Tuesday’s game between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay at LECOM Park in Bradenton.
  3. Rays off Monday; at Twins, 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, Fort Myers

    The Heater

    Today: Off

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

    On deck

    Tuesday: at Twins, 1:05, Fort Myers. Rays, Chris Archer; Twins, Nick Tepesch

    Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 1:05. Rays, TBA; Orioles, TBA

    Thursday: vs. Twins, 1:05. Rays, Jake Odorizzi; Twins, TBA

    Today's other area teams

    • Phillies at Blue Jays, 6:07, Dunedin...

  4. Cobb scratched from minor-league start due to back tightness


    Rays RHP Alex Cobb was scratched from a planned minor-league intrasquad start this morning in Port Charlotte due to lower back tightness.

    Manager Kevin Cash said they did not expect the issue to disrupt their season-opening pitching plans, as Cobb is slated to pitch Game 3 on April 5.

    "I don't think it changes anything,'' Cash said.

    Sunday was to be Cobb's long start of the spring, when he was to throw 100+ pitches, and then make an abbreviated outing on Friday in Clearwater.

    The Rays probably won't know until seeing how he feels on Monday how best to proceed, but Cobb could just skip this start, pitch Friday and head into the season.

    Cobb said via text he "definitely could have pitched today" and "this is really nothing.''...

  5. Rays report: Andriese vs. Yankees in Tampa, 1:05


    UPDATE, 1:17: The addition of C Derek Norris to the 40-man roster was made official as the Rays placed Rule 5 pick RHP Kevin Gadea on the 60-day DL due to right elbow tendinitis. Gadea was going to be returned to the Mariners when he developed a sore elbow; he now will get major-league pay and service time while on the DL.

    UPDATE, 12:14: 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Logan Morrison, bench/infield coach Tom Foley and manager Kevin Cash all gave positive reviews of their first experience on the new turf at Tropicana Field, noting that it looked better and played true....

  6. 10 things we think we know about Rays as season approaches

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — With the season opener — finally — just a week from today, there are things we know for sure about the Rays.

    Chris Archer is pumped to make his third straight opening day start. Evan Longoria is prepped to anchor the lineup from his familiar No. 3 slot. Kevin Kiermaier has lots — like $53.5 million worth — of reasons to be happy to be back in centerfield. Reliever Brad Boxberger (lat) and shortstop Matt Duffy (left heel surgery recovery) not being able to join them are unexpected problems....

    Alex Cobb hasn’t seemed quite locked in with his mechanics so far this spring.
  7. Rays journal: Catcher Norris eager to work with strong pitching staff

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — C Derek Norris joined the Rays on Saturday, eager for the opportunity to play regularly and regain his All-Star form after a rough 2016.

    "Ultimately the optimism the front office and the guys showed in me and what they envision me doing here with the great group of pitchers that we have here — that's something I think is a strength of my game, being able to work with guys and bring out the best in all these guys — so that's what I think screamed the most opportunity for me," said Norris, who will wear No. 33. "I have no doubts in my game right now."...

    Catcher Derek Norris says that working with pitchers and bringing out the best in them is a strength in his game.
  8. Topkin: Observations from a busy week for the Rays

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — It was a busy week in Rays land with business intertwining with baseball, from CF Kevin Kiermaier signing his long-term contract, to Team USA telling Chris Archer to stay home for the final, to principal owner Stuart Sternberg admitting several top stadium sites were unavailable, to free agent C Derek Norris being added to rock the worlds of returnees Curt Casali and Luke Maile....

    Rays catcher Curt Casali, who appeared in 84 games last season and had reason to believe he would at least make the team as a backup catcher, now faces a possible demotion, trade or release with the signing of veteran Derek Norris.
  9. Rays at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. Sunday, Tampa

    The Heater

    Today: at Yankees, 1:05

    Steinbrenner Field, corner of Dale Mabry Highway and MLK Boulevard, Tampa

    Radio: 620-AM

    Pitchers: Rays, Matt Andriese; Yankees, Bryan Mitchell

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

    On deck

    Monday: Off

    Tuesday: at Twins, 1:05, Fort Myers. Rays, Chris Archer; Twins, TBA

    Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 1:05. Rays, TBA; Orioles, TBA...

  10. 3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox


    3 takeaways from Rays 7-5 loss to Red Sox

    * LHP Blake Snell showed improvement, but still has to get better. The second-year lefty apparently got the message that his bosses were tired of seeing him pitch poorly and then say he knows what he needs to do but has to do it. He showed some of that over 4 2/3 on Saturday, throwing his fastball with more conviction and using his slider as a weapon. But he made a big mistake in allowing a three-run homer to Pablo Sandoval, and throwing 92 pitches without getting through five innings isn't good enough, and he seemed to know that, too. "I was happy with the way I attacked the zone,'' Snell said. "I felt like I took a stride, I felt like I was more into it, more believing in what I have, more aggressive. Definitely taking that positive, knowing there's a bunch I still need to work on.''...

  11. Rays make official deal with free-agent C Derek Norris


    The Rays on Saturday made official the signing of free-agent C Derek Norris, who got a one-year deal for $1.2-million plus up to $800,000 in incentives.

    Norris, 28, was released last week by the Nationals, who out-bid the Rays to sign Matt Wieters.

    The Rays have to create space to add Norris to the 40-man, and will announce a corresponding move later. Moving RHP Kevin Gadea or C Wilson Ramos to the 60-day DL seem easiest.

    With Norris expected to be their starting catcher and Jesus Sucre in line to be the other, the Rays are looking at sending either Curt Casali or Luke Maile to Triple-A and possibly trade the other.

    Signing Norris gives 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....

  12. Rays Colby Rasmus expected to open season on DL


    Rays OF Colby Rasmus said this morning he expects to open the season on the DL.

    Though Rasmus has been playing in games as the DH, he said Saturday morning he doesn't feel good enough in recovery from hip and core muscle repair surgery yet to play the field at full speed, which the Rays have said is a prerequisite.

    "We've been trying to progress up to that point but it's probably looking like I'm going to start on the DL,'' Rasmus said. "It's not nothing major but I don't feel that I'm ready to run something down in the gap for nine innings. I've been doing a lot of outfield work and it feels pretty good but I don't think I'm quite to that point yet.''

    With DL stays shortened to 10 days this season, and backdating limited to three, Rasmus could miss as few as six games over the first seven days of the season, which opens next Sunday.

    "We'll just have to see how it goes day by day,'' he said. "I had hoped that I would be able to maybe DH, but that's not what they're looking for me to do.''

    Manager Kevin Cash confirmed that is the current plan.

    "Colby has made huge strides here the last couple days,'' he said. "We've all spent time talking with him. I think it's a pretty good thought process that he has saying that when he comes out and plays the field he wants to make sure he feels good and can go track a ball down in the gap and he's just not quite there yet. He will continue to get his at-bats DH-ing and just continue taking it day to day and see how he does. ... We're more optimistic, and I think he is, too, that it's sooner than later if he does start with that scenario.''

    With Rasmus out, OF Mallex Smith seems likely to make the opening day roster, and probably start in leftfield on opening day, with Corey Dickerson as the DH....

  13. Rays report: Snell faces Red Sox in Port Charlotte, 1:05


    UPDATE, 10:56: Here is the Red Sox lineup:
    Castillo cf
    Sandoval 3b
    Young dh
    Rutledge 1b
    Hernandez 2b
    Swihart c
    Selsky rf
    Brentz lf
    Marrero ss
    Haviland p

    UPDATE, 10:33: Rasmus is now out of the lineup, with Logan Morrison as the DH and leadoff hitter.

    UPDATE: 10:08: Colby Rasmus said, and Cash confirmed, that he is expected to start the season on the DL as he is not yet ready to play the field after recovering from hip and core muscle repair surgery and wants to be sure he will be at full speed before doing so. That should be good news for OF Mallex Smith to make the opening day roster. ....  No official word yet on Norris signing, but could be later today. Rays Cash said, hypothetically, it means three guys competing for two jobs - Casali, Maile and Sucre - are now doing so for one. ... Cash said the infielders plus outfielders Corey Dickerson, Mallex Smith and Kevin Kiermaier will work out at the Trop on Sunday morning to check out the new turf, then head over to Tampa to play the Yankees. .. Noting some recent sloppy play, Cash said, it's time to clean some stuff up.''...

  14. Rays journal: Veteran catcher Derek Norris close to signing contract

    The Heater

    BRADENTON — The Rays are adding a new frontline catcher in signing free agent Derek Norris, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    The one-year major-league deal with Norris, pending a physical that could be completed today, is for $1.2 million plus $800,000 in performance bonuses. He would be under Rays control for 2018 in his final year of arbitration.

    The Rays will have to create space on the 40-man roster when the deal is complete, with Curt Casali, Luke Maile and nonroster invitee Jesus Sucre now competing for the other spot. Manager Kevin Cash declined comment after the Rays' 4-0 loss to the Pirates on Friday....

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
  15. Rays to sign catcher Derek Norris


    UPDATE, 4:47: The major-league deal is for $1.2-million guaranteed, plus $800,000 in performance bonuses.

    DEVELOPING: The Rays are signing free-agent C Derek Norris, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

    The deal with Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, though the Rays could retain control of Norris in 2018 when he'd be eligible for arbitration for a final time. The total value is expected to be worth less than $2-million.

    They will have to create space on the 40-man roster once the deal is finalized....

    The deal with Derek Norris, which is pending a physcial, will be for one year, with no option.