BALTIMORE — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg was talking before Monday's opener about all the different ways to measure the progress the organization had made, and there was one that really stood out:
Having to temper expectations about the team based on the strong spring showing.
"It's a good problem to have, but it can become a problem, I think, if we hadn't all realized what was going on and got caught up in it," he said. "You want to set the bar high … but there's a difference … expectations and goals are completely different animals. I think we have a goal, but I don't think we have an expectation. At least we don't now. A month ago, I think the goals were starting to turn into expectations a little bit, but we addressed it. … We went through a maturation."
Still, Sternberg said he couldn't be more pleased: "How can I not be happy with where we are right now?"
Although he took over after the 2005 season, he said this was the target year to start making significant strides, and he likes the look of things.
"Nobody was mailing it in the last two years, but we all needed to learn what we had and to try to get some pieces together, both on the business side and mostly on the field that we knew were going to help us get to our goals as wanted to, and I think we've hit the marks there.
"But certainly the focus I had, and the organization had, was on this year going forward. We had the uniforms slated for this year, we felt we could get the stadium issue out there and put that plan together, and just as it happens, the players are maturing at the right time, and we get a couple gifts, guys turning it up a little bit, and we're ready to start to peak."
OPTION PLAY: The Rays are expected by today's deadline to pick up Carl Crawford's 2009 option for $8.25-million and decline Rocco Baldelli's $6-million option and instead pay a $4-million buyout.
WHO, ME? Home-plate umpire Mike Reilly appeared to have an issue with Crawford saying something from the dugout during the top of the seventh inning, but it was a case of mistaken identity. "He thought I was talking to him, but I explained it wasn't me, that he had the wrong guy," Crawford said. "He said, 'My bad.' It's all good. It's over with now."
OOPS: What looked like an oddly timed double-steal in the sixth — with Akinori Iwamura breaking for second and Dioner Navarro getting thrown out at home with Crawford at the plate — was not supposed to be. "It's a play we have in the book, but it wasn't necessarily called at that particular moment," manager Joe Maddon said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: INF Ben Zobrist (fractured left thumb) likely won't be ready to rejoin the Rays until after the season-opening seven-game road trip because they want him to get at-bats for "at least a week" in minor-league games once he gets clearance to start hitting. … DH Cliff Floyd legged out a double Monday, but a sore left knee could make his availability an almost daily issue, even more so when the Rays are at home playing on turf. "I'm just not quite sure exactly how often we're going to get him out there yet," Maddon said. … Pitching coach Jim Hickey said LHP Scott Kazmir had no after-effects from Sunday's bullpen session and remains on track to throw another Wednesday at the minor-league complex in St. Petersburg.
MISCELLANY: Gametime temperature was 55 degrees. … Quality assurance coach Tim Bogar, who is not allowed to be in the dugout during games, watched and charted from the press box. … Ex-Ray and current Oriole Aubrey Huff, who made some derogatory comments about Baltimore during the offseason, was booed heavily. … Despite several thousand empty seats, the O's announced an 18th consecutive home-opening sellout crowd of 46,807. … The Rays had lost seven straight road openers, which was the longest active streak in the majors.