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Iwamura finds new roost with Rakuten

Kyodo News

Akinori Iwamura, who was released by the Oakland Athletics last month, will return to Japanese baseball for the first time in five seasons on a contract with the Rakuten Eagles, the team said on Sunday.

“We have reached a basic agreement on the conditions and he signed a provisional contract today,” said Rakuten team representative Jun Yoneda. “We want to swiftly conclude the actual contract and have him hold a press conference,” he said.

The 31-year-old infielder joined the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) from the Yakult Swallows in 2007 via the posting system and helped lead the team to the AL championship title and a spot in the 2008 World Series.

“He can hit and play defense. He’s especially known for his big hits. He is one of the few players with experience in both Japan and the majors, so we want him to be a good example for the others,” said Yoneda.

Iwamura had at least 30 homers and hit over .300 for three consecutive years from 2004 with the Swallows before moving stateside.

He was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates in September and was signed by Oakland as a free agent for the rest of the season following third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff’s lower back injury but he hit just .129 with four RBIs in 10 games.

Iwamura batted .267 with 16 homers and 117 RBIs in 408 games over four years in the majors.