Sternberg thinks ’90-plus’ wins is possible

by Gary Shelton on March 29, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Sternberg sees a successful season.

Friday, 3 a.m.

From where he stands, he can see the age in the banners. It has been since 2013 the Rays hung their last one, and deep down, Stu Sternberg would like to think it is time for another.

From where he stands, along the first-base line at Tropicana Field, Sternberg can envision another successful season. He talks about "90 plus" wins. He imagines the players who have a history of injuries being healthy. He talks about "meaningful games" in August and September.

It is Opening Day, and Sternberg is holding court. He does this every year. Now, he stands in a blue blazer, juggling two baseballs in his hands.

It has been an eventful year for Sternberg. He eventually gave up on the prospective stadium in Tampa. His team made a surprising free agent signing in Charlie Morton. The Rays traded away Mallex Smith and Jake Bauers.  They signed Blake Snell to a huge contract.

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In a bit, his team will open a new can of baseball. It will upwrap a new season as if it is a present. They will no long be about last year; they are now about this one.

Some nuggets from Sternberg:

On his optimism about the season: "I'm highly optimistic. It’s rough having to come out and play these guys  (the Astros) four times to start with, but even with the slow start against the Red Sox last year, who won the world championship ... I think it made us a better team what we went through the firsts few weeks and toward the end of the season. Ideally,  that will carry over into this year."

On his expectations: “I’d like to get to 90-plus wins and we can’t control what happens after that. Our division and the number of games we play against the top two teams, especially,  makes it difficult.  It was unfortunate last year. Ninety wins didn't get us smelling anything. If we get to 90 and we’re not even close again, it’ll be frustrating, but I’ll take my chances with 90. It’s still a long haul to get there.

“We feel as good about this club as any we’e had in the recent past. I like the balance that we have. I like the depth that we have minor-league wise. I like the opportunity we have to add if it’s necessary. I hope it’s necessary."

On the things that concern him:"Over-optimism. The meshing of some of the new payers with the ones we’ve had. We don’t a lot of veteran presence to help shepherd us it through it. I’d like to think if were playing important games in July and August, it doesn’t bite us in the ass."

On the late sellout of the stadium: "It's problematic. The sellout isn’t 33 (thousand) or 38 or 42. You're talking 25,000 seats  Given everything what we are, the way we finished last year, the team we had, the 4 o'clock start, it should be a layup. It is what it is. The people who have tickets will show up and they’re going to have a great time."

On if he's worried about the lack of a closer: "We never really have. It’ll affect the manager more than anyone else. It’s a little bit of a security blanket. Kevin as much or more than any manager in baseball, knows how to roll with the punches. If we have a pitcher who is throwing well, we’re going to make are he’s going to get the outs when they're important. That might be the ninth and it might be the seventh."

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