After First, Smith Strong In Debut

Left-hander Greg Smith made his major league debut at Toronto on Wednesday, and after a shaky first inning that featured a defensive mistake by rookie first baseman Daric Barton, Smith cruised most of the rest of the way. He allowed only two hits in six innings, though he walked five. He also struck out five.

It's unclear how many more starts Smith will get. Justin Duchscherer is out with a biceps strain until April 20 at the earliest, so Greg Smith presumably will make at least one more start.

Another A's starter is also expected to miss at least one or two starts: Rich Harden was initially pushed back until Saturday, but Harden now believes he will not be able to go in that game because of a muscle strain under his right arm.

Left-hander Lenny DiNardo is likely to start in place of Harden. It is possible, too, that Harden will go on the disabled list if he doesn't show improvement soon, because the move can only be backdated 10 days and he last worked April 2. Harden's next turn in the rotation would be April 17.

At any rate, considering that two regular starters are hurting, Smith could wind up making several appearances if he continues to fare well. The A's already were convinced he is ready to pitch at the big-league level, and the 24-year-old did nothing but bolster that idea Wednesday. Second baseman Mark Ellis said after the game that Smith reminds him of Kenny Rogers because of his aggressive approach and the way he works.

ATHLETICS 6, BLUE JAYS 3: After leaving the bases loaded in three innings, including the eighth, the A's broke through in the ninth. Toronto's Jeremy Accardo plunked Travis Buck to open the inning with the A's down by a run, and Mark Ellis knocked a triple to right-center to tie the game, Ellis' fourth hit of the night. Bobby Crosby added a two-run double in the inning, one of his three hits.

Rule 5 reliever Fernando Hernandez made his major league debut and got the victory, and Greg Smith started for Oakland, also making his major league debut. Smith allowed three runs, two earned, and just two hits in six innings. He walked five and struck out five.

A's Notes
--1B Dan Johnson was designated for assignment to make room on the 25- and 40-man rosters for Wednesday night's starting pitcher, LHP Greg Smith. The A's have 10 days to waive, trade or release Johnson. He's expected to draw interest on the waiver wire, but if there'd been much of a chance to trade him, the A's would have done so already. The Giants are reportedly not interested in Johnson's services. Johnson had 18 homerusn for the A's last season, but had only one at-bat this year.

--RHP Rich Harden said before Wednesday's game that he believes he's unlikely to make his scheduled start on Saturday because of a subscapularis strain. Harden tried to play catch on Wednesday but felt some discomfort. There remains a chance he'd start if he comes in Thursday and feels well enough to throw a bullpen session, but considering the A's cautious approach to injuries this year, that is unlikely.

--RHP Justin Duchscherer (biceps strain) did not play catch Wednesday and he probably will get Thursday off as well. Duchscherer said he is getting a couple of extra days of rest because the team is working backward with his schedule to get him ready to come off the disabled list on April 20.

--C Kurt Suzuki had his season-long eight-game hitting streak come to an end, going 0-for-4 with an intentional walk. He also had one strikeout.

BY THE NUMBERS: 38.8 -- The percent of games the A's will play at home in the second half, when they have only 26 of 67 games at the Coliseum.

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