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Vernon Wells lofted a foul ball that landed way, way deep in the upper deck, and the race to retrieve the souvenir began.

Well, it was hardly a rush down the left-field line at Rogers Centre in Toronto. A lone man ran through six empty sections and into a seventh, pursuing the prize.

There weren’t too many people sitting downstairs, either – whether in Toronto or a few other cities this season.

The Blue Jays, Baltimore and Cleveland already have drawn record-low crowds of barely 10,000 at their ballparks. The New York Mets also saw their smallest crowd, albeit they’re just in their second year at Citi Field.

“It’s not something that you worry about” said Wells, Toronto’s star center fielder. “We’ve got a job to do, and whether there’s a packed house or however many people are there, we’ve still got to do our jobs.”

Blame it on chilly April weather, the lingering effects of the economy, the lure of the NBA and NHL playoffs on television or fans simply tired of losing. Whatever, the sight of rows upon rows of empty seats is startling.

At Florida, the crowd for Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati was announced at 12,912. In reality, the number of people in the stands was about one-fifth that many.

The news isn’t all bad, though. Major League Baseball attendance is up slightly overall from this point last year.

Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs have the highest-priced regular tickets at $52 apiece, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Citizens Bank Park are still packing ’em in. The new Target Field in Minnesota is a hit, too.

Besides, smallish crowds early in the season are expected. Last year, eight stadiums (excluding new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field) set record lows by late May – Toronto, Cleveland, St. Louis, Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore drew slightly more than 33,000 this week – total, for a three-game series. Only 9,129 fans showed up Monday night, the tiniest crowd in the 19-year history of Camden Yards.

“I didn’t hear anything – just quiet,” Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada said Thursday. “It’s weird, because it’s the big leagues, it’s a major league game. I thought people would like to see it and see good players.”

A’s extend Anderson’s deal

Left-hander Brett Anderson and the Oakland Athletics agreed to a four-year contract extension through 2015.

A 2008 U.S. Olympian, Anderson went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA in his rookie season for the A’s last year. He is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts this year – both against the Seattle Mariners.

Around the horn

Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman was held out of the starting lineup for the fifth straight game because of a strained left hamstring. … Minnesota third baseman Nick Punto has a sore groin muscle and will sit out for a game or two, the team said. … The New York Yankees put reliever Chan Ho Park on the 15-day disabled list because of a mild hamstring injury. … St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday did not start Friday’s game because of illness.

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