Notes: Rays owner visits spring camp

Notes: Rays owner visits spring camp

ST. PETERSBURG -- Devil Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg made his first visit of the spring to the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex on Tuesday and addressed an array of topics.

Looking at the current state of the organization, Sternberg said, "We are in a great place."

"[We are] just where we want to be, and there's nothing I would have changed looking back on everything [in 2006]," he said. "I feel good about this."

Critics of the organization have pointed to the team's lack of spending on free agents during the offseason as an indictment of the direction the team is heading. Sternberg begged to differ.

"We didn't have an exact expectation about what we'd be spending," Sternberg said. "We would spend what was necessary, and [do] what we could do to improve the entire organization to give us the best chance to compete. I feel fine about it."

Sternberg smiled when asked if he feels any pressure as the Rays enter their second season with him at the helm.

"Well, I feel like the honeymoon is over," said Sternberg, noting the Rays feel pressure to do what is necessary to put a solid organization together. "And after that, things are going to happen how they're going to happen. Are we doing what's in the best interest of the entire organization from the Major League level on down? I feel confident we've got the pieces in place."

As for expectations, Sternberg offered his personal goal for the team in 2007.

"It's to win 50 games at home this year," Sternberg said. "We showed last year we could have some real success at home. Obviously, our road record was putrid, to say the least. So, we're focusing on our home advantage. ... After you [get to 50 wins at home], a lot of good things can happen."

The Rays had a 41-40 home record in 2006, but only won 20 games on the road -- including just three road wins after the All-Star Game.

Sternberg fielded the "Wait until next year" question with aplomb, noting with a chuckle, "It's always next season, isn't it?"

But he added that the organization likes to think of itself as a playoff contender this season.

"In baseball, there's so much optimism this time of the year," Sternberg said. "Obviously, the Yankees are in a better place to contend than we are. A number of teams are in a better place than we are. But I think we're in a good place. And I would not measure the success of this season if [the Rays are] a contender or not if we're putting ourselves in a position to contend and succeed. The 50 wins at home is really my issue right now. The 50 wins at home is sort of my bugaboo."

Sternberg went on to say he's happy with the performance of manager Joe Maddon. Sternberg also said he planned to make a few more road trips this season to see if he can help get a handle on why the team struggles away from Tropicana Field.

Intrasquad action: The Rays conducted their first intrasquad game of the spring on Tuesday. Among the sights seen was B.J. Upton playing in right field, having no problems with a line drive and a fly ball hit his way. Upton is learning to play the outfield this spring in the hopes of becoming the team's super utility man. He showed his speed in the first inning when he legged out what appeared to be an infield single, only to be called out. Upton smiled at the call when one of the players on the bench yelled "Stay!" as though Upton should ignore the call and stay on first base.

Jonny Gomes played left field and gave Maddon something to smile about with a double to deep center field off Scott Dohmann. Gomes is coming back from surgery to his right shoulder and is showing no ill effects in the early going.

Brendan Harris started a nifty 6-4-3 double play to give an early indication that he can indeed play shortstop. Harris is in competition to become the team's utility infielder, and being able to play shortstop is a prerequisite for winning the job.

And fans got to have a sneak peak at future stars Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac, Elijah Dukes and Joel Guzman.

Jim Hoff and Charlie Montoyo managed the two teams and Montoyo's "Charlie's Angels" defeated "Hoff's Hackers", 2-0, behind Brignac's solo home run and Shawn Riggans' RBI double.

"I just liked the whole overall attitude," Maddon said. "There was intensity about the game."

The Rays will conduct another instrasquad game on Wednesday morning at 9 ET.

This and that: In Friday's Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees, the Rays will start James Shields, and he will be followed by Edwin Jackson, J.P. Howell, Tim Corcoran, Shawn Camp, Ruddy Lugo, Glover, Dohmann and Juan Salas. Scott Kazmir will start on Saturday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.