For the Rays' second baseman, it was the first time he has hit in the ninth spot. Instead of sulking, he responded with two singles, a double and scored three times in four at-bats. Iwamura was back in the leadoff spot Thursday against right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Iwamura will hit leadoff throughout the weekend against right-handed Orioles starters.
Iwamura's days as the leadoff hitter are numbered once B.J. Upton returns -- and he is expected to return on Monday for the Rays' home opener against the Yankees.
"If Aki's batting eighth or ninth in the batting order, that means you have a pretty good batting order," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So when B.J. comes back, [Iwamura's] going to be down there with [Jason Bartlett] all the time, and that makes us better."
Maddon doesn't seem at all concerned about Iwamura interpreting the change as a slight.
"Aki's totally a team player," Maddon said. "You look at what he did last year by moving from third to second base -- how well that he did. So going from leadoff hitter to eighth or ninth may be an adjustment mentally in the beginning, but when the season's in progress, he's going to be fine with it because he is such a team player. And I have no concerns about that. He looked pretty good yesterday."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.