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Despite moves, Sternberg bullish on future

Rays' owner thinks team's chances of '18 success have 'been sold short'
Special to MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In 2006-07, the Rays scuffled to two last-place finishes in the American League East. Then, in '08, they went from worst to first and wound up playing the Phillies in the World Series.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg sees some of the same ingredients percolating with the current Rays team.

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In 2006-07, the Rays scuffled to two last-place finishes in the American League East. Then, in '08, they went from worst to first and wound up playing the Phillies in the World Series.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg sees some of the same ingredients percolating with the current Rays team.

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"We have a good sense of what we're doing. We have had an incredibly competitive product on the field for the last 10 years, and I'll stand by that for 2018 and beyond as well," Sternberg said while on a visit to the area to talk about a new proposed stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa.

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There seems to be a legitimate reason to be upbeat in Southwest Florida. The Rays have what ought to be a strong pitching staff, anchored by Chris Archer and young left-hander Blake Snell. Up-the-middle defense looks strong with two-time American League Gold Glove Award winner Kevin Kiermaier in center field and Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop. And if third baseman Matt Duffy can recover from the left Achilles injury that shelved him all of last season, he could add some thump to what could be a Punch-and-Judy lineup.

Despite two of their top pitching prospects needing Tommy John surgery this spring, MLB Pipeline ranks the Rays' farm system No. 4 in baseball. It won't be long before infielders Willy Adames, Christian Arroyo and Jake Bauers will arrive in the big leagues.

Said Rays general manager Erik Neander: "We've been really focused on growing something special. We've taken a lot of pride in each of those seasons as we've been doing that, as hard as some of those decisions have been along the way, we've never tanked."

The Rays certainly restructured their roster in attempts to further strengthen their farm system. They traded the face of the franchise, Evan Longoria, to the Giants, sent designated hitter Corey Dickerson to Pittsburgh, traded starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota and packaged right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona as part of a three-team deal.

Sternberg wouldn't predict a win-loss record for this year, but cautioned people who doubt their chances for competing this season

"There's no way of knowing, but I do think we've been sold short," Sternberg said.

Different starter
The Rays were expecting right-hander Anibal Sanchez to start against them for Sunday's 6-5 loss to the Twins, but instead got Aaron Slegers. The Twins released Sanchez early Sunday to open a roster spot for free-agent signee Lance Lynn.

Roster moves
The Rays reduced their roster to 47 players in Major League camp. They optioned eight players to Minor League camp, including Adames, Arroyo, Bauers and Justin Williams. Adames is the Rays' No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. 

The team also released pitcher Dan Runzler.

Colome, Hechavarria looking strong
Closer Alex Colome declared himself ready to go after working a perfect inning Sunday, striking out two.

"Pretty crisp," Colome said of his quick inning.

In an effort to curb his workload, the Rays delayed Colome's regimen by a week, and the reliever was further backed up when he got the flu.

Over the last two seasons, only Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers has more saves than Colome. 

• Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria continued to sizzle at the plate Sunday, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Hechavarria is 8-for-11 since returning from a right hamstring injury on Tuesday.

Up next
The Rays have Monday off before they travel to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Phillies on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Rays manager Kevin Cash has not named a starting pitcher for that game. 

Bob Rathgeber is a contributor to MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays