Cunningham has good debut in A's loss

Cunningham has good debut in A's loss

OAKLAND -- Aaron Cunningham shuffled his feet and smiled shyly in a front of a locker (his own) without a nameplate.

"I was more excited than nervous," Cunningham said about his first Major League game. "I wanted to do a lot with my first at-bat and I did too much. I did the same thing in my second at-bat. I had to simple it out."

After striking out in his first two plate appearances, Cunningham hit a ground-rule double in the seventh inning -- his first Major League hit. An inning later, he added his first two RBIs.

Cunningham was the highlight for the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in a 12-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

The outfielder was sitting at a table with Dana Eveland and Jeremy Blevins before reporters approached him for an interview. Eveland, one of the more outgoing personalities in the A's clubhouse, wanted to stand next to him and help answer questions.

Blevins was a little blunter. "I wish someone would smash a pie in your face," he said.

As a tough season winds down, opportunities remain for hijinks in the clubhouse. The kid was officially welcomed.

Cunningham kept the lineup card and the bat, and he'd like to get the ball, which bounced into a deserted area beyond the right-center-field wall. Stadium Operations jumped into action, as the park began its transformation from baseball to its football configuration.

"That felt good," Cunningham said. "I got it out of the way and hopefully there's more to come."

A's manger Bob Geren said he is going to give him a chance to play.

"His first at-bat, he looked nervous, but then he settled and drove the ball," Geren said. "He's played exceptionally well all year and he looked fantastic in the spring."

Cunningham, who did not have family or friends around for his big moment, said he was just happy to be in the big leagues.

Jack Hannahan and Daric Barton also drove in runs for the Athletics, who have won eight of their last 15 after going 5-25 in 30 previous games.

After using the disabled list an Oakland record 24 times, the A's will likely be experimenting with their roster the rest of the way. Cunningham, part of the trade that sent Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks, is only the beginning.

Rajai Davis had two hits for the A's.

Greg Smith hasn't gotten much run support this season but that wasn't the reason he lost Sunday's game.

"It was a little rough at the start but then I settled in until the sixth, when I didn't make many good pitches," Smith said. "The walks compounded things a little bit."

Smith (6-14) gave up eight runs on seven hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out four. His 14 losses are the most by an A's pitcher since Tom Candiotti dropped 16 in 1998.

"It's hard not to look at the numbers when you know they are there," Smith said. "It can wear on you, but it's not a high priority."

Smith is suffering through the first real bad stretch of his pitching life. He made an adjustment on the rubber and needed time to feel comfortable with it. But he's also getting knocked around a little bit.

"It's kind of taking your lumps," he said. "It's been seven, eight months of baseball on the body; I'm tired, and starting to break down. But I've pitched more innings in a year before. This is something I have to swallow and learn from. There are a couple of good things in there to build on."

Smith can also put things in perspective. His girlfriend's family was evacuated from potential danger from the latest hurricane heading toward Louisiana. His own family lives north of the affected area.

"My family is OK but we need to keep an eye on her family," Smith said. "She is up here and might not be able to fly down there. We just have to hope for things to get better and hope the storm weakens."

Rick Eymer is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.