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Sternberg eyes even better future

Stuart Sternberg said he expects attendance to pick up next season.

Stuart Sternberg said he expects attendance to pick up next season.

ST. PETERSBURG — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the season already is a "tremendous success" — no matter if the Rays make the playoffs or how far they advance — and will be "even greater" from here on out.

Sternberg was cautious in assessing attendance, and the lack of, which has been a popular topic of community debate.

He first said he "can't be disappointed in anything" and acknowledged the large — though not sellout — crowds for the Red Sox games (29,772 on Monday for a total of 1,626,161 for the season).

But he later said, "certainly it's disappointing" they probably won't have even 20,000 for Thursday's game against the Twins.

"I can't tell you it's what we would hope to have happen at this point in the season given where everything is," he said. "But I think the proof will be next year.

"Once this year is done and people have gotten used to the fact that we're actually a winning organization and an organization they're proud of to see from Day 1 how we hit the ground, and if we're having these conversations next year at this time, I might have a different answer. But right now, I think we're trying to look at the positives."

Catwalk time: Rookie CF Fernando Perez, in his first game at Tropicana Field, got a taste of its uniqueness when Jason Bay's fourth-inning homer got stuck in the C-ring catwalk. It was just the third time a fair ball has hit a catwalk and not come down.

"It was weird," Perez said. "I think I would have caught the ball at the wall, on the track."

Warning time: Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he was "shocked" when plate umpire Jerry Meals issued a warning in the second after Scott Kazmir hit Jason Varitek with a pitch. Two others, Evan Longoria and Mike Lowell, were hit but no action taken. Francona said umpires told him the warning stemmed from the team's "history," including a June 5 brawl.

New additions: With September callups RHP Jeff Niemann and Mitch Talbot joining the Rays on Monday, manager Joe Maddon said their roles mostly will be to appear when "something unforeseen" occurred, such as a short outing by a starter or an extra-inning game.

When LHP Scott Kazmir lasted three innings Monday, Talbot made his debut. Maddon said both are candidates to start the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday in Baltimore.

“I felt good," Talbot said. "I just wasn't hitting my spots."

Upton update: CF B.J. Upton (strained left quadriceps) ran and took swings in the batting cage Monday afternoon, saying he feels like he could be available to pinch hit. Upton said the injury, which he suffered Sept. 8, has kept him out longer than expected, but he was hopeful he can return in a few days. But Maddon said he would have to be "really convinced" Upton's leg was fine.

Crawford progresses: LF Carl Crawford said his injured right middle finger feels better and rehab is "ahead of schedule" in the fact he can make a fist. But Crawford, who had surgery last month to repair a tendon, said doctors haven't cleared him to swing a bat. He said his return is still unknown, though it still is likely in the late September/early October time frame set when he went on the DL on Aug. 10.

Miscellany: Rookie C John Jaso got his first hit, a single in the sixth. … Lightning coach Barry Melrose threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Kazmir and Rays president Matt Silverman will attend a South Brandon Little League (600 Parsons Ave.) rededication ceremony at 11 a.m. today.

Sternberg eyes even better future 09/15/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 1:45pm]

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