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Rays won’t get their first choice in search for a new stadium

For Stuart Sternberg, finding a new stadium site for the Tampa Bay Rays hasn’t proven as easily as just identifying his preferred site.

“We had some ideas on locations that just weren’t available, that I thought would have worked perfectly, but they’re off the table,” Sternberg said in Port Charlotte Thursday. “So we’re sort of moving down our list to Nos. 2, 3 and 4. It’s like starting pitchers, you have five of them and sometimes No. 4 is better than No. 2, but rarely better than No. 1. The No. 1 is the No. 1. I hate to be mixing these sort of metaphors, but it sort of works in this case.

“We did have a choice that we thought that was going to be ideal, a choice or two, and it was going to be unavailable. We would have had to flesh it out. But we’re working and trying to find out what will be next best.”

Sternberg wouldn’t say where his choice would have been, or if it was in Tampa or St. Petersburg.

How optimistic is Sternberg?

“It’s unknown at this point,” he said.

Sternberg said in February he expected conclusion by August, but said Thursday it could take until the end of the year.

“Nobody wants this process to move quicker than we do,” he said. “Because the sooner we are able to get something done the quicker we’re able to ramp up our revenues and know where our future’s going to be for the next set of generations to come, but it’s an important process and we’re not doing this in a vacuum. We’re working with various cities on both sides of the bay, we’re working with the different counties on both sides of the bay, we’re working with MLB to a point as well, landowners sometimes in some cases. It’s a complicated process.”

Baseball Prospectus sees the Tampa Bay Rays improving to second

The Tampa Bay Rays may be facing a turnaround year.

At least, that’s what the people at Baseball Prospectus believe.

According the PECOTA rankings, the Rays should improve to be the second-ranked team in the AL East. They should tie the Texas Rangers for the wild-card spot with 84 wins. It was the kind of turnaround prediction that is sure to make manager Kevin Cash happy.

That might sound a bit lofty when you compare it to last year’s 68-win season, but the website sees the Rays as giving up the second-fewest runs (690) in the division. Although it also thinks the Rays will have the second-worst batting average (.244) in the league, one point ahead of Oakland, it thinks it will finish three games behind Boston in the division.

It also has Toronto three games back, the Yankees four games back and Baltimore 10 games back.

Does that seem lofty to you? Well, Bleacher Report still has the Rays in fifth, going 72-90 on the season. USA Today also has the Rays in the basement, going 75-87 on the season.

Two days after big victory, Rays struggle in big defeat

Some days you drop the bomb, and some days, it’s dropped on you.

Two days after the Tampa Bay Rays clobbered Minnesota, 19-0, the Rays lost their worst-ever game, a 19-2 verdict to the Boston Red Sox. The 17-run loss beat 15-run defeats in 1998 and 2012 to Minnesota.

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit two home runs and drove in five for Boston.

Pitcher Jose De Leon made his debut, allowing four runs on two hits and two walks. Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run homer.

“I just couldn’t locate my fastball,” said De Leon. Perhaps he should have looked on the other side of the fence.

Rays bash Minnesota 19-0 in Grapefruit League contest

Are we sure it doesn’t count?

Is there any way we can make it count?

After all, fans have waited years for the Tampa Bay Rays to hit like this – 23 hits including five home runs. And the team hasn’t pitched like this very often – seven perfect innings and a shutout.

It all added up to a 19-0 squashing of Minnesota is a grapefruit league victory Tuesday. Alex Cobb threw two perfect innings in the game. Curt Casali, Nick Franklin and Rickie Weeks hit homers, while Jake Bauer had a grand slam.

The Twins finished with three hits and a walk in the game that was, unfortunately, just practice.

Still, it’s better to win a lopsided game than to lose one.

Does the Rays’ pitching staff have an ace, and if so, who is he?

As the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitchers report for training camp, it starts with a simple question.

Who’s the ace?

And if there isn’t one, who’s, say, the Jack of Clubs?

The Rays want to believe they have a good staff, a staff that will keep them in the AL East race. For that to happen, however, a lot of guys are going to have to have a lot better seasons than they did last year.

For instance:

Chris Archer led the major leagues in losses last season with 19. Oh, his era (4.02) wasn’t bad enough to support all of those defeats, but he did give up 30 home run balls. That’s too many. Archer is only 41-51 in his career despite his strikeout totals, which suggests focus might be an issue. But if Archer can even go 14-14 this season, it’ll help.

Alex Cobb was the Rays’ starting pitcher the year he injured his rotator cuff. He struggled last year with a 1-2 record and an 8.59 ERA. But he’s talking like the wing has healed, and he expects to be a pitcher again this year. That would help if the Rays are looking for arm help.

Jake Odorizzi is the Rays’ new four million dollar man, which makes it easy to wonder how long he’ll be here. Odorizzi had the best season last year of anyone on the staff, going 10-6 with a 3.69 ERA.

Blake Snell, the baby of the rotation, was 6-8 last year but with a 3.54 ERA. He struck out 98 batters in 89 innings, showing there is more there once he learns the league. He’s only 24, so the future looks good.

Jose De Leon came over in the Logan Forsythe trade. He was 2-0 with the Dodgers in a late call-up, but his ERA was only 6.35. Still, De Leon had good enough statistics to merit consideration for the big league team early in the season.

Matt Andriese was 8-8 last year, which isn’t a bad record for a team that won only 68 times. He had an ERA of 4.37. He can pitch in the pen and out of it. He isn’t likely to be an ace, but he could be a good back-of-rotation pitcher.

Chase Whitley is the forgotten man of the Rays’ staff. He’s more of a contender for the team’s No. 5 starter than its No. 1 after one one start due to Tommy John surgery a year ago. Still, he ‘s worth keeping an eye on.

Is there enough there to build a staff? How about a good staff?

If the Rays are going to be a player in the upcoming season, it’ll have to be.

Rays optimistic of a good season as spring training begins

It’s spring, and the Rays see answers instead of questions.

Surgically repaired pitcher Alex Cobb? He’s an asset. Catcher Wilson Ramos? He’s going to help, even if he can’t get behind the plate for a while yet. Shortstop Matt Duffy, who was hurt when the Rays traded for him? Rays’ manager Kevin Cash is looking forward to seeing him add to the offense and defense.

And so it goes. It’s the time of year when skies are partly sunny instead of partly rainy.

“We expect to be playing games in October,” Cash said. Now, that would ensure the playoffs, because the regular-season has only one game slated for October. If the Rays are playing games, plural, it would mean the post season. “That’s the goal. We’re confident with what we’ve done in the off-season. We’re confident with the core guys and the way they finished the year.”

Most prognostications have the Rays in the cellar again, so making it to the post-season would be a nice turnaround.

Can Chris Archer turn his season around? Can Steven Souza cut down on his strikeouts? Can players who had good years (Evan Longoria, Alex Colome, Brad Miller) copy their successes?

The Rays are counting on a lot of things to go right, in other words.

On the other hand, isn’t that what spring is for?

“There are a lot of guys in that clubhouse with a lot of pride,” Cash said. “Not only with their individual performance, but the performance of the team. I don’t think anyone felt good about anything that last series in Texas. I think it’s motivated some guys to work on some things they needed to work on.”

Rays announce start times, single-admission doubleheader

Now, here’s a concept for you.

How about twice the Rays for the price?

On Saturday, June 10, the Tampa Bay Rays will play the Oakland A’s in a single-admission doubleheader. It will be Major League Baseball’s first scheduled doubleheader since July 16, 2011, when the A’s hosted the Los Angeles Angels, and only the second scheduled doubleheader in the last two decades.

The Rays also announced their game times for the upcoming season, which opens on Sunday, April 2, when the team plays host to the New York Yankees.

Monday through Friday home games begin at 7:10 p.m. With select matinee games throughout the season. Saturday games are scheduled for either 6:10 p.m. or 4:10 p.m., with Sunday games scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

This will be the team’s third season under manager Kevin Cash.

Rays trade pitcher Drew Smyly for Mallex Smith, prospects

The Tampa Bay Rays, still trying to escape from the AL East cellar, have added some speed to their roster.

The Rays traded pitcher Drew Smiley for young outfielder Mallex  Smith and prospects Carlos Vargas and Ryan Yarbrough. Smith will fit into a suddenly crowded outfield, which also will feature free agent Colby Rasmus, signed two days ago.

Smith stole 16 bases for the Atlanta Braves last year. He has 299 steals in the minor leagues.

Smith, 23, would help the Rays’ outfield makeup by added speed and defense. Rasmus, too, is considered a plus outfielder. He hit .238 last year.

You have to give up something to get something,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said on the team’s website. “But the type of deal we made, the return we got, we thought was something that made sense for us. We’re eager to see how it plays out from here.

“We are heavier with starting pitching than we are in some other areas. And this is an opportunity for us. One of the goals we set out to accomplish this winter was to put ourselves in position to be competitive in 2017, and we’re really doing everything we can to increase competition within our group, be more dynamic and have a greater mix and see how it shakes out.”

Smyly was available because of the Rays’ glut of starting pitchers and his salary. He was schedule to make $6.9 million this season through arbitration. Acquired from Detroit at the July 31, 2014 trade deadline in the David Price trade, Smyly was 15-15 with a 3.95 ERA in 49 starts with the Rays, including 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA last season.

Rays add Colby Rasmus to their outfield, need bullpen help

The Tampa Bay Rays may have to tweak their starting rotation.

Obviously, the bullpen needs work.

As far as the regular lineup, however, the Rays have gotten better this off-season with the addition of Colby Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramos. Whether they have done enough remains to be seen, but it’s a start toward fixing last year’s 68-94 record, the only non-winning team in the AL East.

Rasmus has had four 20-home run seasons and is thought of as an excellent defender.

Part of the equation, of course, will be when, and how many games, Ramos can catch. Another part will be how much Rasmus can hit. Rasmus hit only .206 last year in an injury-plagued year.

Still, the lineup of Brad Miller at first, Logan Forsythe at second, Matt Duffy at short, Evan Longoria at third and Ramos behind the plate has some promise. Rasmus would slide into left, with Corey Dickerson at DH. Kevin Kiermaier is in center and Steven Souza in right.

After Alex Colome, the pen needs attention, as does the rotation, where only Jake Odorizzi had a winning record a year ago.

Rays cast dissenting vote against CBA to protest their plight

The need a little help. They didn’t feel they got it.

Hence was Stu Sternberg’s lone dissenting vote as MLB owners ratified their new labor agreement by a vote of 29-1.

The Rays have long felt that the gap between large-market and small-market teams was widening, and they viewed the new labor agreement as a chance to address their concerns.

“I am thankful for the hard work, leadership, and spirit of compromise that were essential to this agreement coming together,” Sternberg told the Associated Press in an e-mail. “However, twice a decade, the bargaining process provides an opportunity to address the extraordinary and widening competitive gap that exists on-field between higher and lower revenue clubs. I feel that opportunity was missed here.”

The Rays wanted changes in the draft, for instance, that would give small market teams additional picks.

“Lower revenue clubs face a lot of obstacles, especially when it comes to talent acquisition,” baseball operations president Matt Silverman said last month. “We can’t go out and spend like other clubs so we need to find other avenues to be able to acquire that talent. We’ve looked for additional access on the amateur side, on the international side, and there haven’t been any major changes in the last 10 years, and in fact the revenue disparity between clubs has grown by an immense amount.”

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