ST. PETERSBURG - Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said Tuesday that the Rays might back away from their request for a $450 million stadium on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront if the financing numbers from the sale of the Tropicana Field site don't measure up to their needs.
"Sure," Sternberg said. "Heck, yeah. We're putting a lot in at this point, and I think if we went in and said, 'Oh, yeah, we're just going to write a $450 million check' tomorrow, there would still be a good deal of opposition, but people would feel differently about it.
"But it's nothing we can even close to afford to do, so we've got to see what the numbers look like, most importantly for the Tropicana Field site being put back on the tax rolls and how they're helpful for education and how it helps to finance a stadium and also what the plan would be for the development."
Making his first visit to camp this spring, Sternberg also acknowledged that racking up more wins this season "probably" would give the Rays a better chance of winning the stadium referendum in November, but the team has kept that consideration out of baseball operations decisions.
"There are a lot of factors I can't control," Sternberg said. "Yes, we can help control the wins a little bit, but quite frankly, is there a lot we can do to have this team win a ton more games? If you win three or five more games, is that going to make the difference at the voting booth? I doubt it. I would hope, and I think, that people see past that a little bit."
In a meeting with reporters that lasted nearly 30 minutes, Sternberg also said the Rays have the flexibility to further increase their payroll during the season if they see an opportunity, but such a move would affect the 2009 and 2010 budget.
"I think the big question always in July, what everybody focuses on, is 'Are they buyers or sellers?'" Sternberg said. "Well, a few years ago the team sold and picked up Scott Kazmir. We will always be in a position to be buyers or sellers at any point in time. If we're tying our hands to one position where we can't add payroll, we wouldn't be doing our jobs."
He also said that despite the Rays' offseason moves to improve the team, he doesn't think local fans owe the team their support.
"Nobody's got to do anything," he said. "We're doing everything we can every day we can to make the product as appealing as we can. I think people sense that in us, and other than our records the last couple of years, which have been atrocious, everything else is pointing up and people could be coming out to the ballpark. If they want to, there's nothing keeping them away at this point."
IT'S ABOUT TIME: Joel Guzman said he had all his paperwork for a work visa in order in mid-to-late January and he was planning to show up early to Rays camp on Feb. 14, five days before position players had to report. Twelve days after his target, he finally suited up Tuesday after flying into Tampa the night before.
"I was dying to be over here," he said.
Guzman had been working out in the Dominican Republic while dealing with the frustrations of bureaucratic red tape that also have ensnared teammates Willy Aybar and Juan Salas. Guzman said there were several new wrinkles in the process this year, including a visit to a doctor for a urine test, but "for each player there's something different."
Aybar is expected to be in camp today, but Salas' timetable is still uncertain.
INTRASQUAD UPDATE: Dave Martinez's Mud Dogs beat Tom Foley's Feinsteins, 2-1, with Reid Brignac driving in both runs for the victors. Akinori Iwamura and Elliot Johnson had two hits apiece. Jonny Gomes was the defensive star, going to the ground for a couple of nifty catches in right field.
Manager Joe Maddon said Gomes and B.J. Upton would not play today. Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Carlos Pena, Cliff Floyd and Dioner Navarro will be in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday's game.
NOTEWORTHY: Foley, coaching third base, and first-base coach George Hendrick wore batting helmets in the field as part of new precautions instituted by MLB to protect base coaches. ... Aybar, Andy Sonnanstine and Shawn Riggans signed, leaving three players without a contract - Upton, Scott Dohmann and Jae Kuk Ryu.