"We've had our eye on him for some time," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "We tried to acquire him when he was with Kansas City. He just does a lot of things we really appreciate and value, so we've tried to get him for a while. At one point, we thought we were pretty close before he had an injury. I think with what he does well, he'll fit in really well for us going down the stretch."
DeJesus has experienced a whirlwind week that began with him playing for the Cubs before the Nationals acquired him on Monday in a waiver deal for a player to be named.
"Unbelievable," DeJesus said. "Five days ago, I was in last place. … I'm excited to be a Ray now. It's an opportunity to play, come over here and help out and be in a pennant race. I've been on a lot of losing teams, so this is exciting for me.
"These guys play the game the right way. You know when you play against the Rays you've got to make sure every out is being accounted for, because they come after you. … Just go out there and play the game the right way, run the ball out hard, and that's the way I play, so I think it's a good fit."
DeJesus, 33, joined the Rays prior to Friday night's game against the Yankees and started in left field, batting seventh. His first hit with Tampa Bay was a double in the fourth.
"[DeJesus] is in left field [for the series opener], but I can see him in center or right," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You can see him hitting seventh, you can see him hitting first, you can see him hitting second. He's going to be all over the place in the batting order. He's a very good offensive player. Great guy, too."
DeJesus made Maddon's decision look like the right one with two runners aboard in the top of the seventh, making a lunging catch before crashing into the wall to end the inning.
DeJesus is in the final year of a two-year contract worth $10 million, and he has a 2014 club option. Friedman was asked about taking on the contract.
"It's a real financial outlay," Friedman said. "He's a good player who makes us better. I think we're fortunate with the ownership group we have and their commitment and focus on doing everything we can to win games."
Contrary to reports about who the player to be named will be, Friedman said that decision has not yet been made. He did allow that the list of names from which the Nationals can choose includes fewer than five players. A decision must be made within six months of the deal, according to Friedman.
The Nats will be calling up right-hander Xavier Cedeno from Triple-A to fill DeJesus' roster spot. Washington claimed the 26-year-old off waivers in April after he began the season with the Astros. He has appeared in seven Major League games between the two clubs this season, holding a 9.39 ERA across 7 2/3 innings.
DeJesus is batting .247 with six home runs and 27 RBIs on the season.
Attempting to reach the postseason for the first time, DeJesus has spent time with the Royals, Athletics, Cubs and Nationals. In 1,242 career games entering Friday, he owns a .279 batting average, a .353 on-base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage, with 513 RBIs and 1,281 hits, including 254 doubles, 61 triples and 86 home runs. Since 2004, DeJesus' 60 triples are seventh most in the Majors.
This season, DeJesus has started 64 games in center field and three games in left. He owns a career .992 fielding percentage and has played in 651 games in center field and 320 in right field, compared to 295 in left.
Maddon was asked how DeJesus' arrival would affect the rest of his roster in regard to playing time.
"It's probably going to nick up Kelly [Johnson] a little more than anybody," Maddon said. "We'll see. ... I really have to be aware of keeping Kelly involved also. That's one of the nice problems when you get a lot of good guys. Then you have to keep a lot of good guys solvent and playing well."