Now that Steve Jeltz has been traded from a team that finished last in 1989 to one considered a pennant contender in 1990, is he doing any celebrating?
``I don't want to stick my foot in my mouth,'' said Jeltz, traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, ``but I like the situation I'm in.''
A Lawrence High graduate who played college baseball at Kansas, Jeltz is expected to fill in on the infield, especially as a backup for second baseman Frank White. Jeltz was mainly a shortstop for the Phillies, although he also played some second and third base.
``I feel good coming home,'' Jeltz said by telephone Saturday from Florida. ``When I was in high school and junior high, I'd thought about it. When I was growing up, sure I wanted to play for them.''
THE ROYALS traded right-handed pitcher Jose DeJesus to acquire Jeltz.
Jeltz said he was ``somewhat surprised'' by the move, but added it wasn't totally unexpected.
``I heard the Royals were interested in me during the winter meetings,'' Jeltz said. ``Then again about a week ago, I heard the same rumors going around.''
The 30-year-old Jeltz had spent his entire career in the Phillies' organization. He owns a .213 lifetime major-league average, but he batted .243 last year.
``It was time for a change,'' Jeltz said. ``The Royals have a chance to win it this year. But the Phillies have been good to me. I was with them for nine years. They taught me how to hit left-handed.''
Jeltz said that becoming a switch-hitter three years ago has helped him offensively, but he added it wasn't easy to learn.
``I'VE ONLY been hitting left-handed for three years,'' he said. ``At first, it was frustrating more than anything else. You're trying to hit against the best in the world.''
Jeltz said he wasn't certain where he'll be seeing most of his playing time for the Royals.
``To start off, I'm not really sure,'' he said. ``Frank (White) is having a little trouble with his knee, from what I understand. I'll probably be playing more second base. I played between 25 and 40 games at second last year. I've played about 30 games at third.
``Shortstop's my home, but whatever they need me to do, I'll do,'' he said. ``You catch the ball, you throw the ball.''
Jeltz said he hoped the trade would benefit both clubs.
``I think they (the Phillies) need pitching, and I was the right person for the deal,'' he said. ``It worked out for both teams, I think.''
Jeltz said he's looking forward to playing in American League cities after spending his entire career in the National League, but added that he doesn't see any problem with the adjustment.
``Baseball is baseball, anyway you slice it,'' he said. ``It won't be any harder, but it won't be any easier.''