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Beaming across the U.S.

The Rays are not a typical expansion team. They don't have a lineup loaded with the typical castoffs. They don't play in a typical dingy dome.

You know that, and they know that. Tonight, the rest of the baseball world finds out. The Rays make their first (and only scheduled) national television appearance of the season when they face the Angels at 8:05.

"Obviously a lot of people don't know much about us," DH Paul Sorrento said. "It's nice to get that exposure, and that people will get the chance to see what we're all about."

Managing general partner Vince Naimoli and GM Chuck LaMar see the forum as an opportunity to showcase the team, the renovated stadium and the area's fervor for baseball.

"Any time they get a chance to play in front of a national audience, I think players enjoy it," LaMar said. "And for a first-year organization, it provides an opportunity for fans around the country to get familiar with our ballclub and our facility as well.

"It's our first time on national TV, and there will be others, and it's a great opportunity."

Naimoli has appealed to fans to come out tonight and fill the stadium, noting that the Diamondbacks had packed houses for their national TV games. "I think it's a reflection on the area, from a PR standpoint and a pride standpoint, if we get a big turnout," Naimoli said.

The players are looking forward to it.

"It's something big for the organization," pitcher Roberto Hernandez said. "To get to go out and perform in prime time, that's something special. It will probably be just like Opening Day."

Rookie Bobby Smith said he was excited about playing for the first time knowing that family, friends and former teammates in other organizations are watching.

"It's a good opportunity for people to see that we're not just a team that's just coming up, that we've got a good team here," said Dennis Springer, tonight's scheduled starter. "People will be saying, "Oh, you've got Fred (McGriff) and Wilson (Alvarez) and all those guys.' "

JUST WONDERING: How is it the Rays are scheduled for one game on ESPN and none on Fox but the Diamondbacks are slated for five?

CONSPIRACY THEORY: Visiting Texas was a bit of a homecoming for pitching coach Rick Williams, who spent some of his childhood in the Dallas area. He specifically recalls the day President Kennedy was assassinated. "I was in second grade in Fort Worth and I remember the nuns coming in to tell us," Williams said. "My family went out there (to Dealey Plaza) the next day to look around. I haven't seen it since, but I've been interested in that ever since."

UP AND DOWN: This is how injured pitcher Rick Gorecki spent his day Monday. Arrived in Dallas from Anaheim around 2 a.m. Got up at 5:15 to go to the airport. Left on 7:30 flight to Jackson, Miss. Caught connecting flight to Birmingham, Ala. Was examined by Dr. James Andrews, head of the Rays' medical staff. Got a concurring second opinion that he should improve with rest and exercise. Caught a 4 p.m. flight back to Jackson. Had a 2{-hour layover because of storms in Dallas. Arrived in Dallas around 9:30. "It was a long day," Gorecki said, "but it was worth it."

THEORETICALLY SPEAKING: The decision to send Bubba Trammell to the minors last week was more difficult than it appeared. Trammell clearly was struggling, but the line of demarcation is not as obvious with a first-year team as with an established or contending team. The Rays have to juggle what is best for the player, the major-league team at that moment and the organization long term. "It's a fine line to determine what's best for the player and what's best for the team," LaMar said. "And at times it can be a very fine line." Trammell, by the way, actually got a longer look by the Tigers last season (67 at-bats through 35 games) than the Rays (17 at-bats through 16 games).

DIAMOND HOPPING: With 3B Wade Boggs on schedule to return next weekend in Cleveland, manager LarryRothschild will return hot-hitting Smith to a utility role, giving him occasional starts at third, shortstop and second base. The more interesting decision will be the resulting roster move. Roths-child seems to want to keep 12 pitchers, especially with only five days off until the All-Star break. If he does, that could mean a demotion for backup INF Aaron Ledesma or reserve OF Jerome Walton. "I'm not sure what we're going to do," Rothschild said. "It could be 11 pitchers or it could be 12."

SHEFF SPECIAL: No matter what you hear over the next few weeks, don't expect the Rays to trade for Marlins OF Gary Sheffield. His seemingly me-first attitude and penchant for controversial and contradictory comments are two good reasons, and his $10-million annual salary and $61-million overall contract provide others.

CLOSE SHAVES: Williams wants his pitchers to throw inside, and he wants other teams to know they will do so. (Their 12 hit batsmen probably makes that point.) "Once you establish you can do that, it opens up a lot of holes for you," he said. "If unfortunately we hit some guys that's all part of it. But we need to establish we will pitch inside." Williams also is watching to see which of his pitchers do it well. "We need to see who goes inside with gusto and who goes in there passively," he said.

HOO-RAYS: There is one surprise on the soon-to-be-released All-Star ballot: the Rays listed Sorrento as an outfielder since there is no DH position. The first of five weekday afternoon home games is Tuesday. The Rangers had one last week and called it "Excuses Day." Any suggestions? Angels coach Larry Bowa said he was "a little disappointed" he didn't get to interview for the Rays' managerial job.

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