Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays owner wants to see team pull together now

NEW YORK — As most any owner would, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains confident his team will stay in the race for a playoff spot into September.

But with the Rays opening play Thursday at Yankee Stadium only two games over .500 at 37-35 and six games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox, Sternberg made it clear the time is now for his players to show what they can do.

"Our best baseball should be ahead of us here, but by the same token, the last couple weeks it was important for us to play a bit better than we have been," Sternberg said before the 8-3 victory over the Yankees.

"We've got a stretch ahead of us here where we have the opportunity to really do some good stuff. It's important we play really well from here out to the All-Star break."

After playing four games here then three each at home against the red-hot Blue Jays and Central Division power Tigers, the Rays enter, arguably, the softest part of their schedule: 14 games going into the All-Star break against the Astros, White Sox and Twins, who have three of the five worst records in the American League.

Sternberg said to this point, the defense has been the only consistent aspect of the Rays' performance, the rest "topsy-turvy."

And the key to improvement?

"We have to start replicating offensively what we did in May, and we need to start pitching like we know we can pitch," he said.

Sternberg was getting his first look Thursday at prized prospect OF Wil Myers, who made his debut Tuesday.

"It's great we had the opportunity to bring him up," he said. "The offense, the hitting, there really was not a place for him at all, and he was struggling a little bit down at (Triple-A) Durham a little bit the first month or so. And he seemed to put it together at the same time some of our bats went a little bit cold."

MOLINA THE DH: Trying to get as many right-handed hitters into the lineup as he could against Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte, Rays manager Joe Maddon made a surprising move, using veteran C Jose Molina as the designated hitter, though he went 0-for-3.

Surprising even to Molina, who said he came into the clubhouse, saw Jose Lobaton's name in the lineup in the usual eighth spot for the catcher and assumed he was off for the day. But Molina found out differently when he got to the trainers' room.

FOR STARTERS: RHP Alex Colome was officially announced as the Saturday starter, taking injured RHP Alex Cobb's spot in the rotation. The Rays will make a move to make room after tonight's game, with RHP Josh Lueke, called up after Cobb was hit on the right ear by a line drive Saturday, likely to be sent down.

COBB UPDATE: The Rays have not set a timetable for Cobb's return as he has a concussion, fluid buildup in his ear and balance issues.

Cobb, though, was able to go to the Trop on Thursday to do light arm exercises and tweeted: "Never thought I'd have so much fun doing arm exercises! Nice to finally leave the house… The rehab process had begun!"

Maddon said: "Obviously it's a step in the right direction. Glad to hear it."

MILESTONE MOMENT: Thursday was the 2,500th game in Rays franchise history — they are 1,141-1,359 after the victory — and the only person who was in a Tampa Bay uniform for Game 1 and Game 2,500 is bench coach Dave Martinez, who started the franchise opener in rightfield and got the first hit in franchise history.

"To be able to be a part of the first game there and to do the things we've done now and be part of the organization now, it's truly a great feeling," Martinez said.

MISCELLANY: CF Desmond Jennings reached base four times, drawing raves from Maddon for the quality of his at-bats. … LHP David Price, out since mid May with a triceps strain, will make his first rehab start at 5 p.m. today at Bradenton's McKechnie Field, pitching for advanced Class A Charlotte. … RHP Roberto Hernandez starts tonight. Maddon said there has been improvement: "Primarily, we've learned him better, and we've been able to help him suggestionwise in regards to anything usage and how to use his stuff."

Comments
Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

Rays’ trade silence likely a short-lived phenomenon

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There were a lot of reasons the Rays didn’t start the process of trading some of their bigger-name, higher-paid players at last week’s winter meetings.Most obvious was them not finding the just-right deal to move closer Alex Colome...
Updated: 4 hours ago
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Published: 12/14/17
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Published: 12/14/17
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Published: 12/14/17
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17