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Rays

Iwamura's return a success

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 08:30 AM
DETROIT -

Three months after being told he had a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee, 2B Akinori Iwamura rejoined the Rays on Saturday and started at his old position.

Iwamura took the 25-man roster spot of LHP Scott Kazmir, who was traded to the Angels on Friday, and went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs.

"He swung the bat well, ran and moved well," Manager Joe Maddon said. "He wasn't challenged defensively, but he seemed OK. In talking to him before the game, he seemed confident. I don't think there was any mental hesitation with the injury."

Iwamura was injured May 24 at Florida when East Lake High grad Chris Coghlan crashed into his knee while breaking up a double play. When team orthopedist Koco Eaton operated June 23, he discovered that Iwamura's ACL was only partially torn.

The five-time Japan all-star started a rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham on Aug. 14 and hit .303 in 11 games.

Neither Iwamura nor Maddon could predict whether Iwamura will need more time to build his endurance or whether his knee is ready for everyday play. Both said they will evaluate the situation daily.

Ben Zobrist moved to center field, and struggling B.J. Upton was given the first of what might be a couple of days off. Maddon said Zobrist will continue to play every day regardless of Iwamura's availability. When he isn't at second base, the club's former super utility man will spell SS Jason Bartlett or an outfielder.

"We're not going to miss his bat," Maddon said, referring to Zobrist's .288 average, 23 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Another chance

Kazmir's next turn in the rotation is Tuesday, when the Rays open a critical three-game home series with the Red Sox, and former starter Andy Sonnanstine will get the nod.

The Rays made the announcement after Saturday's game and said Sonnanstine will be called up from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday. If he pitches well, he could start in the Sept. 7 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Under that scenario, there would be some shuffling to the rotation, because Kazmir's old slot comes up again Sept. 6.

"We'll see how his first time out goes, but he has pitched well at the new Yankee Stadium, as well as the old Yankee Stadium," Maddon said. "We'll continue to evaluate it as we move forward, because we do have other options."

Maddon confirmed that the choice was between Sonnanstine and Wade Davis, and said both pitchers probably will be with the club sometime after Tuesday.

Davis pitched three hitless innings for Durham on Friday and is 10-7 with a 3.20 ERA. Sonnanstine, who was 6-7 with a 6.61 ERA when he was sent down June 27, is 5-3 with a 4.40 ERA at Durham.

If Davis eventually wins Kazmir's job this season, the Rays will have three rookies in their rotation (Jeff Niemann and David Price are the others).

"We've got to kind of keep them in line and try not to put too much pressure on them," veteran RHP James Shields said. "If (Niemann and Price) keep doing what they're doing, we'll be fine."

Odds and ends

OF Gabe Kapler has hit safely in four consecutive games and is batting .444 in that span. ... Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday for decompression of a nerve in his lower back. ... The Rays and Durham have agreed to extend their affiliate relationship through 2014.

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