Devil Rays place Iwamura on DL, recall Cantu

Updated: April 24, 2007, 7:03 PM ET
Associated Press

Jorge Cantu
Akinori Iwamura

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a right oblique strain that will sideline the former Japanese League star four to six weeks.

The Devils Rays' biggest offseason acquisition was injured swinging the bat on a fifth-inning double during Monday night's 10-8 victory over the New York Yankees. He resisted manager Joe Maddon's suggestion to leave the game and finished 2-for-3 with one RBI and three runs scored.

"Of course I'm disappointed since I got off to a good start," Iwamura, who's hitting .339 with one homer and five RBIs in 18 games, said through an interpreter.

"Being on the DL for the first time makes me a little nervous," he added. "Not only for myself, but the team. I'll do my best to recover and play as soon as possible."

A six-time Gold Glove third baseman in Japan, Iwamura agreed to a $7.7 million, three-year contract in December. The Devil Rays paid a posting fee of $4.55 million, hiking their investment in the former Yakult Swallows star to $12.25 million.

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To take Iwamura's spot on the roster, the Devil Rays recalled infielder Jorge Cantu from Triple-A Durham. Cantu was hitting .267 with eight RBIs at Durham, primarily playing first base after being Tampa Bay's regular second baseman the past two seasons.

Cantu batted .286 with 28 homers and a franchise-record 117 RBIs in 2005, but spent six weeks on the disabled list with a broken left foot last season and slumped to .249 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs.

"It's just part of the game. you'd like to go through an entire season without any of your major components getting hurt," Maddon said. "But it happens. It's up to us to cover it."

Iwamura has hit safely in 14 of 17 starts and scored the winning or tying runs in six of the eight victories Tampa Bay had heading into Tuesday night's game against the Yankees. He's also had a big impact at third base.

"It's a tough loss for our lineup," Devil Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "It's also tough for our pitching staff because of what he's done defensively."

Among position players who have made the jump from Japan to the major leagues, only Ichiro Suzuki (.359 in 2001) had a faster start through 18 games. Iwamura began the season with a nine-game hitting streak and has a .479 on-base percentage.

Ty Wigginton will move from first to third base. Carlos Pena likely will share playing time with Cantu at first base.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press