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36-year-old Smith draws start for A's vs. Twins

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After having to wait until age 36 to make his first major-league start, Oakland Athletics right-hander Chris Smith knows better than to look too far ahead.

Smith is just living his dream one day at a time, and he'll make his fourth career start Saturday night when the A's face the Minnesota Twins and rookie Adalberto Mejia in the second game of a three-game series at Oakland Coliseum.

"Yeah, I'm just doing what I'm told, right?" Smith said Friday before the A's 6-3 loss to Minnesota. "I mean, it's surreal. I'm trying to take it all in and try to be normal at the same time. It's unbelievable. It's like a fantasyland. I'm just trying to gather my thoughts and do the best I can."

Smith is 0-1 with a 3.32 ERA and three quality starts for the A's, despite having a mid-80s fastball and having to rely more on deception and guile than power.

Smith's first 63 career major-league appearances came in relief. He's 1-1 with a 4.37 ERA overall and is looking for his first win since June 24, 2008, with Boston.

"Every time my family drops me off it feels like I'm walking into the clubhouse for the first time," Smith said. "It's awesome. I'm just as giddy and just as happy as day one. I don't think too much ahead. I'm just trying to have fun today and enjoy today. After that, if I get tomorrow, I get tomorrow."

Smith was called up from Triple-A Nashville on July 8 and replaced right-hander Jharel Cotton (right thumb blister) in the rotation. Cotton is slated to come off the disabled list Monday and start that night against San Francisco.

In two career relief appearances against the Twins, Smith has allowed no runs and two hits in three innings.

Smith will face a Twins team that snapped a four-game losing streak Friday night. Minnesota pounded out 11 hits in support of left-hander Jaime Garcia, who made his first start since being traded to the Twins from Atlanta on Monday. Garcia held the A's to three runs and eight hits in 8 2/3 innings in his first start for an American League team.

"Coming off the off day and having gotten swept (three games) in L.A., it was nice to come out and get a win," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Garcia's start, we were looking forward to seeing how he would respond. Overall, it was good."

Twins third baseman Miguel Sano returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised left hand and went 1-for-5.

Mejia will face Oakland for the first time in his career. He's 4-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts this season. In his past six starts, Mejia is 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA.

"I feel good," Mejia, 24, said Friday through a translator. "We're working hard every day just to get better and better."

In his last start, Mejia allowed only two runs (one earned) but lasted only 4 1/3 innings and threw 96 pitches, getting a no-decision in a 9-6 loss to Detroit on Sunday at Target Field.

Mejia said he's focused on being more efficient and going deeper in the game Saturday.

"Absolutely," Mejia said "Its just to throw less pitches, go longer and help the team win."

The A's lost their fifth straight game Friday, and manager Bob Melvin remained stuck on 999 career victories.

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