Sternberg pleased with Rays' direction

August 15th, 2018
HAVANA - MARCH 21: Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is seen during a press conference on Monday, March 21, 2016 at Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana, Cuba. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images) Rob Tringali/Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Stu Sternberg held court prior to Tuesday night's series opener at Yankee Stadium, and the overriding message from the Rays' principal owner is that he feels pretty good about the team and where it is headed.

The Rays have successfully turned over their roster this season, supplanting veterans with younger players and emerging prospects while playing entertaining, competitive baseball.

"Look, nobody's setting the world on fire, and it might be for the better," Sternberg said. "I think the thing I didn't give enough credence to, even though it's very important, is the fact that these guys have played together and won together. And I think that is more important than I might have thought in the past. ... These are Major League Baseball players now, which is nice. Now they have to stay healthy."

Sternberg said that the Rays will head into the offseason for the first time in a long time with a roster of players who can be expected to be on the team for next year and years to come.

"It clearly isn't going to be precisely what you're seeing out there now," he said. "But you look around, and especially once we add maybe another piece or two from the Minor Leagues ... you're looking at your team for next year. Having said that, stuff happens. ... So I never discount any of that."

Sternberg then addressed position by position, sounding like a conductor introducing the members of his orchestra. And the bottom line from that dialogue was this: He's particularly happy about the state of the team's pitching.

"The relievers, and the relievers turning into starters, and some starters becoming relievers," he said. "A couple of guys getting stretched out. There's no embarrassment of riches.

"There isn't the ace sort of guys we've historically had, but we have a long line of very, very, capable, competent Major League pitchers."

As for Chris Archer, Sternberg called him a "great Ray."

"I'd like to think that given the way he succeeded here, this is going to be a place he's always going to consider his launching pad," Sternberg said. "He was certainly instrumental."

Sternberg noted that the Archer deal was of particular interest to him, since the thread of the trade dates back to the Rays trading to the Twins prior to the 2008 season.

"The boldness we had. ... [Former general manager] Andrew [Friedman] had to trade a No. 1 pick, Rookie of the Year-type guy for Major League-ready players, a shortstop and a pitcher [Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza]," Sternberg said. "But then you see what Garza brought [in the trade with the Cubs], it was nothing so evident at the time to step into the Major League level. There were pieces, and there was Chris Archer [in the Cubs deal]."

When asked if the Rays will continue to use "openers" in lieu of traditional starting pitchers, Sternberg said they would.

"It's a no-brainer," he said. "It's silly."

He added that plans could change if some of the pitchers they have step up to become "seven-inning guys."