The Yakult Swallows announced Monday they have signed 33-year-old infielder Akinori Iwamura, who will return to the club for the first time since 2006.
Iwamura, who suffered a calf injury in March and a thigh injury in September, was released following a season in which he batted .209 in 26 games for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Iwamura has 1,119 career hits and 189 homers in Japan after signing out of high school as the Swallows’ second-round draft pick in 1996.
Iwamura played three seasons for the Tampa Bay Rays, who acquired him ahead of the 2007 season through the posting system. A winner of six Central League Golden Glove Awards at third base, Iwamura became the Rays’ second baseman in 2008, the year they won the American League pennant. He finished his big league career in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland Athletics. Iwamura batted .267 with a .345 on-base percentage and 16 homers over four major league seasons.
In November 2011, the Eagles signed Iwamura to a two-year deal worth ¥300 million plus performance-based incentives, but the left-handed hitter batted just .190 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 103 games with the Eagles.
“He accomplished so much before he went to the majors. I hope he can show some of that form next year,” Swallows team president Tsuyoshi Kinugasa said.
Rule change discussed
Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 teams discussed scrapping the “3½ hour” energy-saving rule at an executive committee on Monday, but no conclusion was reached.
The rule, enacted due to the energy shortage following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, prohibits the start of a new extra inning more than 3½ hours after the start of play.
The Central League’s board of directors agreed to do away with the rule for next year, but no consensus was achieved among representatives of the Pacific League teams.
There were 74 tie games in NPB this past season and 56 in 2011, up from an average of 18 a year from 2005 to 2010.