Tampa Bay Rays
Sternberg: Rays Are 'In The Ballpark'
BALTIMORE - Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg took the train from his home in New York on Wednesday to get an up-close look at his team. He would have come Tuesday, he said, but he didn't want to jinx his first-place club. He's still getting used to the whole idea of winning, let alone hanging around the top of the American League East heading into May. "We haven't been in sniffing distance of it before," Sternberg said. "I think we're probably in the ballpark now. I'm not saying we're sitting in the box seats and can really touch it and feel it, but we're in the ballpark." But what if they're still "in the ballpark" as the season progresses? Would Sternberg be willing to shore up areas of weakness to make a run at the postseason?"We said it before the season," he said. "If we identify a need and it's there, we'll do what's necessary to fill a gap." That said, Sternberg is pleased with the team as it is and doesn't foresee making a change for change's sake if the Rays are still in it at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. "I've got to tell you, I think we've got all the parts out there," he said. "I'm pretty happy with all the parts. The cohesiveness is certainly there, which is nice to see. And we're poised to win lots of ballgames." Sternberg said he's eager to see how the team plays when injured players like LHP Scott Kazmir and DH Cliff Floyd return from the DL during the next few days and weeks. "I think it's unfortunate we only have 25 slots," he said. "When these guys come back, it's like two pounds of bologna in a one-pound bag." FLOYD STILL IFFY: Manager Joe Maddon said Floyd (15-day DL, knee surgery) still is battling a virus and might not be able to play today as scheduled in an extended spring training game. Also, RHP Al Reyes (15-day DL, right shoulder impingement) will pitch an inning today in extended spring. He will be evaluated Friday, when he could pitch another inning to test his ability to go on consecutive days. Maddon said there's still a chance Reyes could rejoin the team this weekend in Boston, but the more likely return date is Tuesday in Toronto. The Rays are expected to option LHP Kurt Birkins to Triple-A Durham at some point, but if Reyes isn't ready to return, Birkins' spot could be taken by Kazmir when he makes his 2008 debut Sunday. That still would leave the Rays with a roster decision to make when Reyes does return. RHP Scott Dohmann (2-0, 3.55 ERA in nine appearances) was the last reliever named to the staff in spring training, but he is out of minor-league options and would have to be designated for assignment and, presumably, exposed to waivers. NOTEWORTHY: RHP Jeff Niemann, who hasn't pitched since being demoted to Triple-A Durham on April 21 because of arm soreness, threw a bullpen session Wednesday and is scheduled to start for the Bulls on Saturday. ... Rays RHP James Shields finished the month with an ERA of 2.54, the best in team history through April. ... Rays LF Carl Crawford's 24 runs in April were a team record for the month and one shy of his own team record for any month, 25, set in June of 2004. Carter Gaddis