Iwamura in high spirits after surgery
Infielder, club excited about news he could return in '09
ST. PETERSBURG -- After getting the unexpected news that Akinori Iwamura's left knee surgery went far better than anticipated, translator Bori Uchibori went around the clubhouse to gather some of the Rays' reactions.
The players were excited by the pleasant surprise that Iwamura may not have to miss the remainder of the season.
Iwamura was just as excited for another reason.
"They still remember me," Iwamura joked.
Iwamura spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since it was announced that the surgical procedure on his injured left knee went better than anticipated. The original diagnosis of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, suffered in a collision at second base May 24, turned out to be incorrect, as the ligament was only partially torn. Iwamura may be able to return to the field in six to eight weeks.
Monday's surgery, performed by team orthopedist Koko Eaton, repaired a torn medical meniscus in the knee. On Wednesday, Iwamura walked out to meet the media -- albeit with a large brace covering almost his entire left leg -- and expressed excitement at the turn of fortune.
"I'm very excited that the procedure went really well, and so excited that I have the possibility to return to the field this season," Iwamura said through Uchibori. "I'm pain free right now."
Iwamura didn't know what the next step in the rehabilitation process will be, other than that he will work with Eaton and assistant trainer Nick Paparesta to get the knee ready.
Iwamura reiterated that as excited as he is to get back on the playing field, he wants to make sure he is completely healthy.
"I'm not going to rush myself," Iwamura said. "I want to be 100 percent when I get back on the field."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was caught completely off guard when he got the news that Iwamura may be in uniform again this season.
"You get all the reports and the medical reports and you just think the guy is going to be out all year," Maddon said. "And, furthermore, you're just concerned about his future. So it was great news for him, his family and for us."
Iwamura was batting .310 with 16 RBIs and eight steals before the injury, which occurred when Florida's Chris Coghlan slid to break up a double play. Utilityman Ben Zobrist has filled in at second base. Zobrist, who entered Wednesday leading the American League with a 1.033 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), has been one of the surprise stars this season.
It's too soon to conjecture about the position now, with Iwamura still two months away from possibly returning. It's a good sign, however, that his spirits are high.
"When the incident happened, I thought it was broke," Iwamura said. "That was the pain I had at the time. It's hard to imagine right now that it turned out to be a lot better than I predicted."
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.