ST. PETERSBURG — Delmon Young said that ever since the Devil Rays traded him to the Twins as a 22-year-old coming off a solid 2007 rookie season, he always hoped for the chance to return. He enjoyed playing and living in St. Petersburg, liked the players and people who ran the team, relished the competition of the American League East.
"I've always thought about it since the day I left," Young said.
So when the Rays expressed interest after his recent release from the Phillies, Young passed on offers from other contenders and leapt at the chance, agreeing Thursday to a minor-league deal but with plans to make a major contribution to their pennant race push.
In an effort to improve depth, the Rays are expected to add another experienced hitter today when they work out a waiver deal with Washington for outfielder David DeJesus, a 33-year-old lefty swinger whom they have long admired. DeJesus would join the team promptly, likely in place of Jason Bourgeois.
Young, who was released last week by the Phillies and hasn't played since Aug. 8, will be given time to work back into top form at Double-A Montgomery, probably the nine days until rosters are expanded Sept. 1.
Young was eager to get started, flying into Tampa late Wednesday from Arizona, where he had been working out with a hitting coach. He moved back into a St. Petersburg house he still owns, had a physical exam Thursday morning, then flew to Montgomery, where he is scheduled to be in the Biscuits lineup tonight at DH.
"There are no guarantees," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said, "but we wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think he could play a role for us in September."
In Young, the Rays see a veteran right-handed hitter who has pennant-race and postseason experience (including last year's American League Championship Series MVP award) and, primarily as a DH, can provide some much-needed power against lefty pitchers. Young, after recovering from offseason ankle surgery, hit .261 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 80 games for the Phillies.
"Obviously in September you're able to expand your roster and deploy guys in different ways, so he's still got strengths and abilities to really help us win games," Friedman said. "We'll use the full extent of our roster to put us in the best position to win. If he does come up, we feel like he'll have a chance to really help us do that."
Friedman said the Rays also see a more mature Young than the one who, after being the top pick in the 2003 draft, made headlines in the minor leagues for tossing a bat that hit an umpire and making negative comments about the Tampa Bay organization. "Twenty-seven-year-old Delmon is very different than 22-year-old Delmon," Friedman said. "He's grown and matured as a person."
Young did get in trouble last year as well. He was arrested in New York in April after an alcohol-related incident in which he shouted an anti-Semitic slur and tackled a man to the ground outside a hotel. He eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment charges, for which he did community service. He got good reviews in Philadelphia this year, where he was considered a positive, veteran influence in the clubhouse.
"He's lived 1,000 lives since he left Tampa," agent Joel Wolfe said. "He's a different guy."
The Rays won't have much invested in Young, maybe no more than $100,000, with a prorated portion of the major-league minimum — the Phillies responsible for the rest of his $750,000 salary — and a share of incentive bonuses.
DeJesus was an object of the Rays' affection in July 2010, with a trade in the works until he tore a tendon in his right thumb. He hits more for average than power, with a career .279 average and .771 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
He spent the bulk of his career with the Royals, traded to the A's in 2011, then signing a two-year deal with the Cubs. The Nationals claimed him on waivers Monday but put him right back out on waivers, which is how the Rays got involved.
That leaves three potential outcomes by 1 p.m. today for DeJesus, who played in Thursday's game for the Nationals against the Cubs: either the Nats let the Rays have him and the approximate $2.5 million he is owed ($1 million salary, $1.5 million buyout on a $6.5 million 2014 option); the Nats and Rays work out a trade, maybe player(s) for financial relief; or the Nats keep him and his contract for the rest of the season.
DeJesus' wife, Kim, tweeted Thursday: "Wait what? I give up. Just let me know when seasons over and where Dave ended up."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.