Tampa Bay Rays Former Second Baseman Akinori Iwamura Retires
By David Hill
Akinori Iwamura was a solid second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays during his three seasons. Yesterday, he announced his retirement from baseball.
A slugging third baseman in Japan, Akinori Iwamura became a decent infielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was signed to a three year, $7.7 Million contract prior to the 2007 season, as the Rays were hoping to use Iwamura as a piece towards contending.
Iwamura did his part from the beginning. Although he was not the free swinging slugger he had been in Japan, Iwamura was still a solid player, producing a .285/.359/.411 batting line while finishing second in the American League with ten triples. Although he slumped in 2008, Iwakuma was on pace for a solid 2009 campaign before he tore a knee ligament, which resulted in Ben Zobrist seizing control of second base.
No longer assured of a starting role, the Rays sent Iwamura to the Pirates for Jesse Chavez. Unfortunately, his injuries continued, and Iwaumra struggled as a result. Released by the Pirates in September, he finished out the season with Oakland, producing a combined .173/.285/.250 batting line.
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That would be his last appearance in the Majors. Unable to find a job stateside, Iwamura returned to Japan, signing with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Unfortunately, injuries and bad play continued to plague the former star, and he was released after two seasons. He signed with the Yakault Swallows, where he had been a star, but was just a shadow of himself, playing for just two years with his former club.
However, Iwakuma was not yet done with baseball. He spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the player/manager of the Fukushima Hopes, a team in the independent Baseball Challenge League. Yesterday, Iwakuma finally hung up his spikes, announcing his retirement as a player.
Although Iwamura likely would have never been a star in the Majors, he appeared to be on pace to be a productive player for the Tampa Bay Rays. Had he not suffered that knee injury, robbing him of his ability in the field, he likely could have had a solid career in the Majors. Instead, he returned to Japan as a faded star who was unable to recapture his former glory.
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Best of luck to Akinori Iwakuma in his retirement!