"We always try to temper our expectations," Sternberg said, "but clearly we thought we'd be positioned better at this point."
Sternberg noted that the Rays have dug themselves into a lot of holes in past seasons.
"But that doesn't have a lot of bearing on where we are right now," Sternberg said. "But we know it can be done. And I feel very confident in the plan we've put together and the players we have on the team. So I know that it's well within our skill set to do it."
If things don't turn around, will the team become sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
"I can talk or we can go by actions and there have been various things, you look at what we've done and handled," Sternberg said. "You go back to 2012 at the end of July and all hope was lost. I don't know how many games we were out at the trading deadline, but it was probably close to double digits. And we were not playing inspired baseball, and people were like, 'Who are they going to trade?' And the team stayed together.
"You can't bank copying the run that team had, but we're still two months away from that point. Clearly there's a point -- a team's 17 games out in the middle of July -- but by the same token, if you think you're in striking distance, and more importantly, if you have confidence in the guys here that they've got a good stretch of baseball in them. In a week or two, you look back and you could be in a different position."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.