Keep the ball!

One of the worst rituals in baseball these days is coercing fans to throw a home-run ball hit by a visiting player back onto the field, something that fans at Citizens Bank Park and other ballparks stole from the Wrigley Field bleacher bums.

Minnesota Twins fan Chris Fink was having a nice, relaxing evening in the left-field bleachers at the Metrodome when he came up with a home-run ball hit by the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

So much for a relaxing evening. "You have the ball in your hands for one second and there are 100, 200, I don't know how many people hollering in unison, 'Throw it back,' " Fink told Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse. "I always felt I would never throw a ball back but the approval of the crowd is irresistible, I guess."

With even his friend urging him to get rid of it, Fink launched the baseball. His friend then had a change of heart, saying, "I'm pretty sure that was A-Rod who hit it. Maybe you should have kept it."

"I started having regrets while the ball was still bouncing across the turf," said Fink, who added that nearby Yankees fans then told him they would have bought the ball from him.

Domino effect

The anxious eyes of New York and the surrounding environs were on young Joba Chamberlain, who made his first start for the Yankees last night.

But the move of Chamberlain leaves a hole in the Yankee bullpen, one that was exposed when new setup man Kyle Farnsworth gave up the eventual deciding run to Minnesota on Monday night on a pair of doubles.

Farnsworth has allowed seven runs in 71/3 innings since May 17. "You can't worry about missing Chamberlain," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He's a starter now. That's over with."

A run producer

Cleveland third baseman Casey Blake set an American League season-high Monday night with his seven RBIs. The Phillies' Jayson Werth has the major-league high for the season with eight, done against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 16. It also marked the second time Blake has knocked across seven runs in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Blake has more career games with seven RBIs than five men who are in the top 10 on the all-time RBI list: Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Mel Ott and Carl Yastrzemski.

Wimpy winners

Not every team that is having success this season can slug the ball around and out of the ballpark as the Phillies have done recently. The California Angels entered last night having won nine of their last 13 despite having scored four runs or fewer in all 13. They are 17 of 91 (.187) with runners in scoring position.


The Red Sox placed David Ortiz on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left wrist Saturday. . . . The Yankees' Jorge Posada could come off the disabled list tomorrow.