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04/13/08 2:15 PM ET

DeJesus available to play

Outfielder could return to Royals' starting lineup Monday

KANSAS CITY -- It was not baseball weather Sunday -- mid-30s temperatures in mid-morning -- but David DeJesus was out hitting and running the bases under the watchful eye of Royals trainer Nick Swartz and manager Trey Hillman before the series finale against the Twins.

"It felt great," said DeJesus, who has not played since the March 31 opener because of a left ankle sprain.

Good enough that DeJesus could play, although he was not in the starting lineup.

"He had a real good workout," Hillman said. "I think he's very close to being able to break through into the lineup. I've got him available today if we need him. There's still going to be some soreness there. I gave him some suggestions on how to monitor that, especially in cutting the bases. It seems to be a little bit more sensitive going counter-clockwise in that direction to his left. He's continued to improve.

"Hopefully the soreness will continue to dissipate and he will continue to strengthen it. He's available full-bore today. If there's a need, I won't hesitate to use him."

Hillman said, "It's possible, but I haven't done the lineup yet," that DeJesus could start Monday at Seattle.

DeJesus, a career .282 hitter entering this season, has been limited to one at-bat. He aggravated the ankle injury, which he first hurt in a March 24 exhibition against the Dodgers, and left after two innings of the opener.

While DeJesus' return to the lineup appears to be imminent, Hillman had a few surprises in his lineup Sunday.

Billy Butler, who had been the designated hitter the first 11 games, started at first base in the series finale against the Twins. The Royals went 4-7 when Butler started at first base as a rookie last year.

"He's worked hard," DeJesus said. "He's had several days of early work. He's stayed on his maintenance program as far as taking ground balls and picks. We got out there two days ago and did quite a bit of work in the cold weather. He did very well with it."

The lineup, which included seven right-handed hitters against Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, had catcher Miguel Olivo as the designated hitter. Shortstop Tony Pena, who was hitless in his past 22 at-bats, returned to the lineup after two days off. Esteban German started at second base, giving Mark Grudzielanek a rest.

Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.