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Akinori Iwamura says he's prepared to play every day in his return to the Tampa Bay Rays

DETROIT — 2B Akinori Iwamura rejoined the Rays team and the lineup Saturday, saying he was ready to resume playing every day less than three months after sustaining what was considered a season-ending left knee injury.

"It's almost unbelievable for me," Iwamura said.

Playing for the first time since the May 24 injury, Iwamura singled, walked twice and scored a run to cap a sequence that had him running on a pitch and popping up from a slide to take an extra base on an errant throw.

Manager Joe Maddon liked what he saw and said he'd monitor Iwamura's status and determine his availability on a daily basis. But he seems to like the idea of putting Iwamura back at second and moving Ben Zobrist around the field while keeping his bat in the lineup.

"With Ben I have no problem playing him anywhere, batting him anywhere," Maddon said. "He's really done such a great job in all those spots, so he permits us to do a lot of things."

Saturday, Zobrist started in centerfield in place of struggling B.J. Upton — "I think he's been grinding heavily," Maddon said — and may do so again today.

Maddon said he also will be more inclined to move hitters around the lineup over the final month based on matchups and performance. Saturday he dropped Evan Longoria — who has hit third all year and fourth once — to sixth, the result of his 3-for-21 trip. "Longo also has been applying too much pressure to himself," Maddon said.

Trade follow: The key minor-leaguer coming to the Rays in the Scott Kazmir deal is the one who has not been named.

That could be because the teams haven't settled on who it is from a small pool of options. Or it could be because he's a 40-man roster player and has to first clear waivers (and if claimed would have to be pulled back and hung on to by the Angels until after the season).

It sounded from Friday's descriptions that it was a position player with some upside, which could include OFs Terry Evans and Reggie Willits and INFs Matthew Brown, Sean Rodriguez, Freddy Sandoval, Mark Trumbo and Brandon Wood.

LHP Alex Torres, whom Baseball America ranked the Angels' 24th-best prospect, will join Double-A Montgomery. He was 13-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 26 games between the Angels' A and Double-A teams with 149 strikeouts in 1471/3 innings.

"Our scouts rave about his stuff," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "He gets a lot of swings and misses, generates a ton of ground balls. He's a guy we're excited to get."

3B Matt Sweeney, who was ranked 18th, will join Class A Charlotte after hitting .299 with nine homers at Rancho Cucamonga. "He is a professional hitter," Friedman said. "He manages the strike zone very well. Has good power. Just really works good at-bats and couples that with being a really good hitter."

Not only did the Angels assume all the nearly $24 million remaining on Kazmir's contract, but they had to pay the $800,000 bonus he gets for being traded.

Zim sidelined: Don Zimmer, the Rays' legendary senior adviser, will be sidelined indefinitely as he has back surgery next week for decompression of a nerve.

Minor matters: The Rays extended their working agreement with Triple-A Durham for four more years, through 2014, and also agreed to play an exhibition there next spring on April 2 or 3.

Miscellany: Zobrist rejoined the team after missing Friday's game to attend services for his father's uncle, who died last week. … Saturday was the first Rays game with no extra-base hits since April 17, 2004, and the third in the 10-year history of Comerica Park. … Carlos Peña logged his 25th RBI of the month. … The Rays stole at least two bases for the 47th time.

Akinori Iwamura says he's prepared to play every day in his return to the Tampa Bay Rays 08/29/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 30, 2009 7:34am]
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