Aki in the house
2B Akinori Iwamura arrived in Port Charlotte this morning, greeted warmly and congratulated by his teammates for winning the World Baseball Classic and saying he was excited about the coming season and doing whatever necessary, including moving down to eighth or ninth in the batting order.
"I haven't talked to Joe (Maddon) yet so I don't know what's going to happen, but I have no objection at all,'' Iwamura said through interpreter Bori Uchibori. "I understand what he's feeling, and that's what I've got in my mind.''
Iwamura also made it clear how excited he is about helping the Rays defend their AL Championship and getting back to the World Series.
"Last year we made the World Series but unfortunately couldn't make it all the way through,'' he said. "This year I have a chance to get two world championships - one is completed and one more is left right now, and hopefully we can make it through.''
Iwamura played a key role for the Japan team in the Classic, hitting .286 in the nine games and coming up with key hits in the semifinal and final. He said the championship is a huge deal in Japan, where "they have the fever.''
Winning the title was significant, he said: "It's very important to win the game, but most important thing is to spread how good baseball is to the world. Not only Japanese baseball, but world baseball. And it's more meaningful since there is not going to be world competition in the Olympics, and now it's more significant that we had a good result.''
The Rays had fun with Iwamura's return, putting two heart-shaped balloons in his his locker - "Cutie Pie" and "Only You." Because Iwamura wore No. 8 in the WBC (instead of his No. 1), he was giving some of his No. 8 equipment to SS Jason Bartlett, who wears No. 8 for the Rays.