MESA, Ariz. -- The trick for David DeJesus now is to transform his off-the-field rebirth into on-the-field success.
The Chicago Cubs' new right fielder says he feels like a rookie again. He is playing for a new team, is moving to a new league and will get his old spot in the batting order again, getting to keep it as long as he delivers there.
And it's all happening close to home. DeJesus, his wife and his son are Wheaton, Ill., residents.
"It feels good to just get back to that comfortable feeling, top of the order," DeJesus said. "That's what I came up my whole career as, and I'm excited to get back to that role and hopefully to help the team win."
A fourth-round pick out of Rutgers by the Royals in 2000, the Kansas City franchise was the only one DeJesus had known until moving to the Oakland A's last season. As a free agent this winter he signed a two-year deal with the Cubs.
So far so good on the move as manager Dale Sveum has tabbed DeJesus as his first choice to occupy the top of the order. With the A's he batted at least once in all nine spots of the order, seeing most of his action in the third, fifth and sixth spots.
It was a huge departure since DeJesus has batted in the leadoff spot in 651 of his 1,007 career games. Getting that spot back makes it reassuring to know he can plan his first at-bat ahead of time.
"The first at-bat is 'Let me work; let me see some pitches,' " he said. "When you're batting in other spots you want to get at it right away. It's definitely going to calm me down and relax me, and I feel that I'm ready for it."
Leadoff is as far as the familiarity goes, though. He will wear a new uniform, of course, and then have to face a whole new set of pitchers in the National League. And then there is his spot in right field. He has played in 204 games there, compared to 277 in left and 522 in center.
The biggest of his concerns will be the transition to facing new pitchers, but there is also the transition of those pitchers having to face him for the first time.
"Once the season starts coming up there will be a lot of guys with a lot of experience against these guys," DeJesus said. "We'll have all those meetings, and we'll talk about the pitchers. Nowadays the video, you can watch every pitch he pitched the last couple of years. I will definitely put my work in before the games so I'm not really worried about it right now."
For DeJesus, this season is all about reducing stress levels. The biggest reason for it is that he will play just 30 miles from his home in the western suburbs.
"It's great," he said. "I have my family, I have my in-laws right around there. I know my wife and my son, off the field, are OK and taken care of. I can just go and focus on my game on the field."
Next up on the to-do list is to win over Cubs fans.
"I'm a guy that's going to go out and play the game hard and hopefully they respect that," DeJesus said. "They respect guys who go out there and give their best and put their best foot forward. That's all I can do, and that's the player that I am."