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Sternberg: Talk of selling share of Rays to Montreal group untrue

Rays owner refutes published comments from leader of Montreal group that a deal will be made in 3-4 months.
Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg watches his pitching staff throw during spring training baseball camp Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Port Charlotte, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg watches his pitching staff throw during spring training baseball camp Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, in Port Charlotte, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published Feb. 15, 2020|Updated Feb. 15, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE - Eventually, if the radical plan to split seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal starting in 2028 comes to fruition, principal owner Stuart Sternberg expects to sell a minority interest in the team to his partners in Montreal.

But Sternberg said Montreal group leader Stephen Bronfman was incorrect in saying those negotiations were underway and a sale could be completed in the next three-four months.

“It isn’t true,’’ Sternberg said Saturday at Rays camp. “Eventually, at a point, I would expect and believe they could and would become minority partners. ... I need some representation up there. But there’s nothing happening in months. No way.’’

Bronfman’s comments, saying the talks were in advanced stages, appeared in a lengthy article about the effort in the French language Le Journal de Montreal.

The groups last week said they working on an aggressive timeline to get agreements in place by the end of 2020 for new open-air stadiums in Montreal and either Tampa or St. Petersburg and permission from Major League Baseball to implement the radical plan starting in 2028.

But Sternberg said even that agreement wouldn’t be enough to proceed with selling part of the team, that he would wait until the Montreal stadium was actually being built, shovel in the ground. In the Journal article, Bronfman acknowledges there is considerable work to be done to get construction underway.

“It wouldn’t happen before then,’’ Sternberg said. “Zero chance it would happen before then.’’

Bronfman also said the new Montreal stadium would be ready for 2024, but the Rays are contracted to play at Tropicana Field through 2027, and not even allowed to talk about playing elsewhere.

This is the second time in the last 10 days Bronfman has made comments that raised eyebrows.

In a Feb. 6 radio interview, he said there was good reason the players would enjoy making a mid-season move from Florida to Montreal: "Wives are happy. Much nicer city to be in than St. Petersburg, please. Much more cosmopolitan. Much more fun.'' The next day, Bronfman sent an email to apologize saying he got caught up in his enthusiasm for Monteal and didn’t mean to slam St. Pete.

Renfroe joins the field

Outfielder Hunter Renfroe, acquired in December from San Diego for Tommy Pham, reported to camp, eager to meet his new teammates and learn his way around the complex. As for figuring out where he is going to play in the Rays crowded outfield, Renfroe said he wasn’t worried, happy to do what asked. “I’m a yes man,’’ he said. Renfroe also said he is 100 percent after undergoing a three-part surgery in October on his right foot, having “the gunk” and scar tissue from a high ankle sprain and a bone spur removed, and a calcium buildup on the top of his foot that was causing nerve irritation shaved. “It feels like I never even had surgery, so that’s great,’’ he said.

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Pitchers, catchers and early reporting position players will work out at 10:30 Sunday at the Charlotte Sports Park (2300 El Jobean Road). … All but nine of the 25 infielders and outfielders have reported to camp ahead of Tuesday’s first full-squad workout: Randy Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Lucius Fox, Brandon Lowe, Nate Lowe, Ryan LaMarre, Austin Meadows and Joey Wendle (whose wife had a baby couple weeks ago in St. Pete). ... Newly signed relievers Deck McGuire and Brooks Pounders both arrived, expanding the roster to 67.


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