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This series, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will root against the New York Mets, his longtime favorite team

DENVER — Stuart Sternberg was a Mets fan and season-ticket holder long before he became principal owner of the Rays. Heck, long before many of the Rays were even born, going back to the early '80s.

But when the team he owns plays the team he loved in a three-game series starting tonight at the new Citi Field, his loyalties won't be divided a bit.

"My emotions are crystal clear," Sternberg wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "The Mets are just another team that is in the way of where we plan to get to.

"Whatever emotion I might have had left when Shea (Stadium, the Mets' previous home) was knocked down. I attended close to 1,000 games there and would have been proud and a bit choked up to have my team play the place."

Sternberg has four season tickets he shares with a friend that, he points out, are on the visitors' side and will be used for the large group of family and friends he's bringing.

And though his memories lie in Shea, he said, "the new park is superb and a baseball fan's nirvana."

Manager Joe Maddon said the only thing he has heard about the new place is that it plays big, perhaps larger than its listed dimensions of 335 to left, 408 to center and 330 to right.

National attention: RHP Andy Sonnanstine gets to face an NL team tonight in New York and he gets to hit, which makes him a happy man.

In 10 starts vs. NL teams, Sonnanstine is 7-2, 3.88, with a .778 winning percentage that ranks seventh best in interleague history. In 57 starts against AL teams, he is 17-23, 5.54.

"I just feel a little more comfortable facing a National League team," he said. "I don't know what it is, but I've had some success against them, and I'm just trying to keep it rolling."

He likes doing so on the road, where he gets to work on his .333 (7-for-21) career batting average, which matches Kansas City's Brian Bannister for best among active pitchers with at least 20 plate appearances. In NL city games, he is 4-1, 3.32 (and 4-0, 1.91 if you take out a rough 2007 game in Colorado).

Rehab report: LHP Scott Kazmir got solid reviews for his work in Wednesday's 42/3-inning Class A rehab start and will throw a bullpen session today at Tropicana Field then move next to Triple-A Durham and pitch Monday.

"Just heard nothing but good," Maddon said. "(Senior VP Gerry Hunsicker) thought there was some really good depth on some sliders. Primarily he pitched well and hit the strike zone pretty good."

RHP Chad Bradford (elbow surgery) remains on track to rejoin the Rays next week after throwing a scoreless inning Wednesday in the first of three scheduled Durham rehab appearances.

Minor matters: Short-season Class A Hudson Valley opens play tonight under first-year manager Brady Williams, the former Dunedin Little League star and son of longtime big-league manager/coach Jimy Williams. … Triple-A Durham 1B Chris Richard was named the organization May player of the month for hitting .342 with nine homers and 27 RBIs. … RHP Winston Abreu, now in the majors, was the top pitcher after going 6-for-6 in save opportunities with 24 strikeouts in 15 innings and a 1.80 ERA.

Draft breeze: Sixth-round selection RHP Devin Fuller of Chandler Gilbert (Ariz.) CC became the highest pick signed by the Rays. With the announcement of seven others, the Rays have signed 22 of their 50 picks. The new signees, by round: No. 17 OF Alexander Diaz, No. 18 LHP Jacob Partridge, No. 25 1B Ryan Wiegand, No. 35 CF Christopher Murrill, No. 36 RHP Jeff Cinadr, No. 41 LHP Matthew Stabelfeld, No. 43 3B Eugene Glynn.

Miscellany: Team officials will attend a second workout today by Pedro Martinez in the Dominican Republic; Yahoo reports the Angels, Cubs and Yankees also will be there. … SS Jason Bartlett extended his DL-interrupted career-high hitting streak to 13 games. … Citi Field will be the 33rd stadium the Rays have played in as the visitors; they are 9-23 in their opening appearances.

This series, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will root against the New York Mets, his longtime favorite team 06/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 19, 2009 7:17am]

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