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Displaying dome important step for franchise

Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli said Sunday night's nationally televised game on ESPN was critical for the first-year franchise's national recognition and for Tropicana Field in particular.

"This is another key step in our maturation into baseball," Naimoli said. "It's important that we put on a good show, that Tropicana Field sparkles for a national audience."

In front of their largest television audience, of course, the Rays would have preferred better than the season-low crowd of 26,882.

"Yes, it was the smallest crowd for the year," Naimoli said. "But this game was changed after the schedule was made so our fans thought it was an afternoon game.

"The other two things are that it is a school day (today) so kids have to stay away and we really didn't get the opportunity to do the kind of marketing we would have liked in the media."

Sunday night's national telecast was the first for the Rays.

The Rays are not scheduled for another nationally televised game but ESPN can change that.

SLUMP-BREAKERS?: Shortstop Kevin Stocker said the Rays are in a slump after losing three straight and five of their past six and said denial won't help.

"We are in a bit of a slump but the thing you have to do is face it head-on," Stocker said. "I learned this from Paul Molitor. When you try to ignore it and hide from it, it doesn't work as well."

Starting pitcher Dennis Springer (1-3) said the slump is not necessarily a product of bad play.

"We're all right," Springer said. "We've played some good games and (Sunday) was a great game. Everybody knows at some point in the season you're going to lose four or five but you just have to come out next day with a positive attitude."

WRAP-UP: Reliever Esteban Yan made his first appearance since April 16 and looked sharp. He pitched a hitless eighth by enticing three harmless popups. . . . Closer Roberto Hernandez retired the Angels in the ninth for his first 1-2-3 inning of the season. . . . Third baseman Wade Boggs, who has made one start since April 7, "will be close to being ready," when he can be activated on Saturday, Rothschild said. But the prognosis is not that certain for pitcher Rick Gorecki. Rothschild said he will know more about Gorecki when the right-hander starts throwing again. . . . There has been no official announcement, but Plant City product Kenny Rogers is Oakland's probable starter for Tuesday's 12:35 p.m. game. Rookie Jason Johnson will start for the Rays.