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Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg remaining patient with struggling team

NEW YORK — The Rays' inconsistent play has been trying the patience of many. But principal owner Stuart Sternberg is, more than anything, trying to be patient, saying he'll wait until the end of May before making any evaluations.

Sternberg, speaking before Wednesday's game, pointed out some of their "incredible positives," such as the performances of 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Carlos Peña and SS Jason Bartlett, and singled out struggling C Dioner Navarro among their "incredible negatives."

Seeing the team for the first time since the home-opening series, Sternberg said: "We're in a stretch right now where we haven't shot ourselves in the foot, but we could have, and should have, won a few more games. But you can't be unhappy where we are."

The Rays are 13-16 and 6½ games out of first, and Sternberg said, "If the expectations weren't so high people would think we were playing really well."

But they are high, all around, and Sternberg is willing to give the players more time to meet them.

"I'm not disappointed, I think I'm just waiting," he said. "Just waiting to see it all sort of mesh together. Maybe it doesn't happen. But clearly we're going to have a few guys not hitting as well as they are — they just can't sustain it — and we're going to have a few guys who are going to be doing a lot better. We know we are going to be a team of streaks; we anticipated that. The expectation is we're going to go on a reasonable run."

He said the Rays opened the season with their "toughest stretch" schedule-wise and suggested they'll do better against what he perceives as less stringent competition from other divisions, given upcoming series against the Indians, A's, Marlins and Twins.

"Not to take any team lightly at all, but when you take a look at the teams we have to play after we get done with this road trip (which continues in Boston and Baltimore) for the next couple months relative to the ones we have to play the first month or two and on the road and whatnot, it won't be as trying, and I think that will be helpful for us," he said.

"So I think I'm not a guy to just wait and wait and wait, but I think we'll have a much better sense of what this team looks like at the end of May as opposed to the end of April."

STADIUM REVIEWS: Some missed the tradition of the old place, but most of the Rays raved about the plushness of the new Yankee Stadium, such as more spacious clubhouse, trainers' room and player lounge (which is off-limits to the media), and a weight room and batting cage just for the visiting team. "The amenities are off the chart," veteran Gabe Kapler said.

STADIUM WISHES: Sternberg was also impressed with his cursory look, calling it "an incredible facility" and saying "who wouldn't want one."

The Rays do, and are waiting for the community-based ABC group to make recommendations. "I don't need to see this to think about my situation. We have our own business, we have our own organization and I think about it — I don't spend all day thinking about stadiums — but we know it's out there and it's something that's going to be necessary at a point in time for us," Sternberg said.

"We have the ABC committee that's working on it and hopefully the sooner, the better. Because the sooner everybody starts making decisions, the better it will be for everybody."

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A RHP Jeremy Hellickson, one of the team's top prospects, will get a couple days rest then be re-evaluated after leaving Tuesday's game with a shoulder strain. He will miss at least one start.

MISCELLANY: Backup C Shawn Riggans (right shoulder tendinitis) went 1-for-4 as the DH for Double-A Montgomery in the second of five scheduled rehab appearances. … The Rays are 9-23 in the first games visiting other stadiums. … The Tuesday night flight to New York was extremely rough due to bad weather along the East Coast.

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg remaining patient with struggling team 05/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 7:42am]

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