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Stuart Sternberg realistic on Tampa Bay Rays' attendance goals

Evan Longoria, greeting teammates in the dugout after scoring on Carlos Peña’s grand slam, was named AL player of the week.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Evan Longoria, greeting teammates in the dugout after scoring on Carlos Peña’s grand slam, was named AL player of the week.

ST. PETERSBURG — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has two primary goals for this season.

One is to be average — in terms of attendance.

The other is to be elite — in terms of competition.

Rather than have a specific number for attendance — besides up — Sternberg has a relative target.

"I don't aspire to average in life or anything, but this year, in 2009, coming off a World Series appearance, I aspire to be average," he said. "And by that I mean I want our attendance to be league average at the very least."

Last season, the average was around 2.6 million. The Rays drew 1.8 million, which was a 30 percent increase from the previous season and their most since the 1998 inaugural season but still ranked 26th overall.

Given the economy and the possibility attendance will be down, or increase less, league-wide, Sternberg acknowledges he has set "a moving target. But that's the barometer," he said, "and it's apples to apples with the rest of the country."

As part of that, the Rays hope to get more people to buy tickets in advance. And they don't mind creating demand by limiting supply, such as keeping the tarps on the upper rows.

On the field, he expects more.

"To be playing significant games after Labor Day," he said. "I want to be in position come this Labor Day at the very least or similar to where we were last year."

Longoria honored: 3B Evan Longoria's hot start earned him the American League player of the week award.

Longoria hit .481 with four doubles, five home runs and 10 RBIs. He is the first rookie of the year to hit as many as five homers in the first six games of his next season and the seventh player overall to do so in the past 12 years. He extended his season-opening streak to seven games Monday.

""The thing about it is he's utilizing the whole field,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "He's hitting the ball from right-center to the pull side; he's not just playing with one side of the field."

Niemann, too: RHP Jeff Niemann won the Al Lopez Award given annually to the top rookie in spring training. Niemann will receive the award April 30 from Al Lopez III, grandson of the Hall of Famer.

Riggans on DL: Backup C Shawn Riggans was placed on the 15-day DL after Monday's game with right shoulder tendinitis, a condition which just recently came up. Michel Hernandez, who filled in during the postseason, was called up from Triple-A Durham and added to the 40-man roster.

Izzy update: RHP Jason Isringhausen continues to work into game shape, though with no timetable for joining the big-league team. He is scheduled to throw two innings today in an extended spring training game and if all goes well will talk to team officials about moving to Double-A Montgomery or Triple-A Durham. "I like being here, but I'm not getting anything out of facing high school kids," he said.

Miscellany: 1B Carlos Peña became the first player to have three grand slams as a Ray. … SS Jason Bartlett homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. … The 17 hits in back-to-back games tied the team mark. The 26 runs over two games are the Rays' second most; they scored 27 in July 2006 games against the Yankees. … Boxing announcer Michael Buffer did the pregame introooooo-duccccc-tionssssss. … Gov. Charlie Crist threw a strike with the ceremonial first pitch. … The Rays are 6-6 in home openers.

Fast facts

Sellout tonight

Tonight's game, which features a pregame AL championship ring ceremony and replicas for all fans, sold out Monday afternoon. That makes 12 consecutive sellouts for the Rays, including the eight 2008 postseason games.

Stuart Sternberg realistic on Tampa Bay Rays' attendance goals 04/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 1:55pm]

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