BALTIMORE — The severe heat on the East Coast isn't helping Nick Swisher get any better as he tries to recover from mononucleosis and regain the weight he lost a couple weeks ago when he had food poisoning.

As a result, many of his teammates are volunteering to play first base in his absence. Adam Melhuse started Sunday and set a high standard by making two good scoops and turning an unassisted double play.

When Melhuse caught Wednesday to give Jason Kendall a breather from the heat, Mark Kotsay, Bobby Kielty and Mark Ellis volunteered to play first base — and the honor went to Kotsay.

It was Kotsay's 13th career start at first, but first since late 1999.

Not surprisingly, Kotsay took to his assignment with full gusto. He was throwing a ball off a wall early in the morning, put on eye black and switched from his wraparound sunglasses to the kind that flip up and down.

"Melhuse definitely set the standard very high," Kotsay said. "He was a pickin' machine."

Kotsay had a blast playing first base, until the seventh, when he was charged with two errors on one play. He booted a grounder, then his flip was too far ahead of pitcher Barry Zito.

"I thought Zito was an athlete," Kotsay said. "No, it was my fault. I led him too far. I made a bad play, and they threw me back out to the outfield."

A's manager Ken Macha said it was because Kielty "looked funny" after taking a swing, reaching for his back and side. Kielty said he was fine.


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Kotsay has a noticeable scar on his neck and ear from getting hit by a pitch in the helmet ear protector Tuesday. It was tough for him to eat, and he was worried that he might have lost a tooth, or worse, broken his jaw.

"Sippin' Slimfast through a straw isn't fun," Kotsay said, laughing as he delivered the next line: "I'm trying to gain weight, so I can become a corner outfielder."

ONE-HOPPERS: Reliever Jay Witasick pitched a 1-2-3 inning Tuesday in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Sacramento in the continuation of his mini-spring training. ... Dan Johnson, sent down to Sacramento on Friday, went 4-for-7 in a doubleheader Tuesday with a home run (his second in three games), a walk, three runs, and two RBIs — and he's hitting .583 after three games. ... Jared Lans

ford threw six scoreless innings Tuesday for Kane County, a low Class A team, running his scoreless streak to 17 innings.