BOSTON — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg says the Rays always try to temper expectations.
But he admitted he was concerned that his team — considered World Series contenders before the season — had the worst record (23-34) in the American League as the calendar flips to June, already 10½ games out of first place in the AL East.
"Clearly we thought we'd be positioned better at this point," Sternberg said.
Sternberg, in Boston for part of the Red Sox series, said he's still confident the Rays can rebound and get back into the race. With the franchise-record payroll around $80 million, Sternberg knows they have the pieces but said "there's room for most every one of our players to be performing a bit better." The effort and cohesion, he says, are there.
"We've dug ourselves out of holes in the past, but that doesn't have a lot of bearing on where we are right now," Sternberg said. "But we know it can be done and I feel very confident in the plan we put together, and the players we have on the team, so I know it's well within our skill set to be able to do it."
The Rays have been hit by injuries, including starters Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) and Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery), along with three put on the disabled list this past week. But Sternberg didn't use that as an excuse, saying they've overcome more injuries before.
When it comes to a potential fire sale at the trade deadline if this trend continues, Sternberg said it was too early to speculate, noting that the team held steady during a difficult stretch in 2011 and ended up making the playoffs on Game 162.
"You look at what we've done, the way we handled it, you go back to (2011) and all hope was lost," Sternberg said. "I don't know how many games we were out at the trading deadline, but probably close to double digits. And we were not playing inspired and people thought, 'Are they going to trade?' And the team stayed together, and you can't bank on copying the run that team had, but we're still two months away from that point.
"Clearly there's a point, (such as) the team is 17 games out in the middle of July. But by the same token, if you think you're in striking distance and more importantly if you have confidence in the guys who are here, that they have a good stretch of baseball in them in a week or two, and (if you stand pat you can) look back and can be in a different (better) position."
Also, Sternberg said he remains optimistic about the stadium situation, but there's nothing new.