OAKLAND — Two of the six players the A's received in exchange for Dan Haren were on display Sunday afternoon at McAfee Coliseum.

On one end of the spectrum was left-hander Greg Smith, who continued to take his lumps (his own words) during a 12-4 thumping at the hands of the Minnesota Twins.

Smith left the game in the sixth inning having allowed a career-high eight earned runs as he wobbles to the finish line of his first big league season.

Then there was left fielder Aaron Cunningham, who enjoyed a much rosier day in his major league debut, collecting two hits and two RBI. The fortunes of both provided some intrigue at least for a crowd of 18,427, which saw Minnesota earn a split of the four-game series by scoring a dozen runs off A's pitching for the second time in three days.

When the A's swung the deal that sent Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks in December, who could have known that four of the six prospects they received already would contribute in the majors?

After seeing Cunningham, just 21, play well in his first game, A's manager Bob Geren said the outfielder will get more starts when a nine-game road trip begins Tuesday in Kansas City.

"We'll give him a chance to see what he can do," Geren said. "He played well in the spring, played good in Double-A and good in Triple-A, and he had a nice game today."

Smith (6-14) became the first A's pitcher to lose more than 13 games since Tom Candiotti went 11-16 in 1998.


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He acknowledged he's feeling the wear and tear of a long season, but said it's no excuse for not pitching well. And though Geren said a slight adjustment in Smith's positioning on the mound gave him better command Sunday, Smith wasn't pleased he issued three walks.

"Sometimes I don't think it's where I'm standing on the rubber as much as me finishing a pitch," Smith said.

He already had allowed Alexi Casilla's two-run home run and trailed 3-1 in the sixth when the real damage came. Immediately after a visit from pitching coach Curt Young, Smith served up a three-run homer to Justin Morneau.

Smith, who leads the majors in pickoffs and has one of the most deceptive moves to first, was called for his first balk of the season on a throw to first in the inning.

The Twins scored five in the rally to command an 8-1 lead, as their first seven batters reached base against Smith and Keith Foulke.

Smith's family lives in Alexandria, La., about three hours north of New Orleans, and should be safe from Hurricane Gustav. But his girlfriend, Camie, has family in nearby Sulphur, and they've been evacuated to Shreveport.

"She's out here, and she might not be able to fly home," Smith said.

Cunningham suffered a broken wrist during spring training but began turning heads when he joined Double-A Midland's lineup in late April. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, and he was called up Saturday.

He struck out swinging in his first two at-bats against Scott Baker (8-4). But in the seventh, he went the opposite way for a ground-rule double to right-center. With the score 10-2 in the eighth, Cunningham came up with the bases loaded and two outs and lined a two-run single up the middle.

He was given the lineup card from the game but had not received the ball from his first hit.

Nor has he found a place to live yet. For the time being, Cunningham is crashing on the couch of the Emeryville apartment belonging to pitcher Dana Eveland.

He isn't complaining.

"I'll sleep on the floor," he said. "It doesn't matter."

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglic@bayareanewsgroup.com.

TWINS 12,
A'S 4
  • next game: Tuesday, at Royals, 5:10 p.m.
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  • need two lines at 10p on the A's notebook. Page 4