KANSAS CITY -- It was almost like the old days for David DeJesus on Monday -- he was playing center field and batting in the leadoff spot. But it was just "almost" because he was doing that for the Tampa Bay Rays, not the Kansas City Royals, as he did for many years.
DeJesus spent eight years with the Royals, one with Oakland and was in his second with the Chicago Cubs when he was dealt to Washington on Aug. 19. After four days, the Nationals flipped him to the Rays last Friday, and he suddenly he finds himself in playoff contention.
"So now I'm right smack in the middle of it and it's great, just being around these guys that are so talented but so relaxed," DeJesus said. "It's really something different than Chicago this year, where things were a little uptight."
It's quite a change being in manager Joe Maddon's laid-back clubhouse.
"The only thing he expects is be yourself and run the ball out," DeJesus said. "That's what he stresses, and I think he gets the most out of the players every day. And I'm excited to keep it going."
It was September 2003 when DeJesus first joined the Royals in Texas.
"I remember sitting between Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney, trying to not get in their way -- not trying to cause a ripple or anything like that," DeJesus said. "And Mike came up to me later in the day and gave me a hug and said, 'You deserve being here.' And that's one thing that still sticks in my mind -- a veteran guy that didn't have to do that but just loved on me and gave me that comfort to be who I am and deserved to be with the team. It was pretty cool."
DeJesus made his debut that night by playing the last two innings in center field.
"That's when they forgot to announce me into the game and my name didn't show up in the box score," he said. "And I'm like calling my friends, 'Yeah, I played yesterday,' and they're like, 'Sure, you did.' And I was like, 'I was in there, I swear to you.'"
Monday's makeup game marked the first time that DeJesus had been at Kauffman Stadium since 2011 with Oakland
"It's cool being here. I've been here before, so it's nothing different," he said. "Now it's just another jersey on, but I'm excited to play. I love playing in Kansas City -- so many good memories here. I love coming back. It's one of the most beautiful stadiums, in my opinion, in the Major Leagues."
Maddon is using DeJesus to lead off against right-handed pitchers, and he went 4-for-7 and scored two runs in his first two starts.
"I've done it all season with the Cubs, so I feel comfortable in the leadoff spot. That's nothing different," DeJesus said. "My job is to get on base in front of the guys behind me. And Longo [Evan Longoria] and Ben [Zobrist] are swinging it good, so something I've done my whole career is all I need to do. So there's no added pressure, just go out and be myself."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. Dick Kaegel contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less