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Yankees take a bat out of the Rays' hands
Akinori Iwamura's bat gets confiscated, coincidentally during a rally, and a win streak ends.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007
Umpire Doug Eddings confiscates the bat of Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura during the second inning of Saturday's 9-6 loss to the Yankees. New York manager Joe Torre said he had never seen a bat with the tip flat like Iwamura's.
The Rays had just tied the score at 2 and had runners at first and second and a 2-and-2 count on Akinori Iwamura when Joe Torre cried foul. After a lengthy delay, the bat was confiscated and Iwamura struck out swinging on the next pitch.
NEW YORK - Yankees manager Joe Torre said he has never seen a bat like Akinori Iwamura's before, with a flat end on the barrel.
Torre's Yankees had played the Rays 13 times heading into Saturday's matinee at Yankee Stadium, but it wasn't until his first-time starter was on the ropes in the second inning that he noticed Iwamura's unusual lumber.
That's when Torre walked out of the dugout and asked that Iwamura's bat be tested, starting a firestorm with Rays manager Joe Maddon but finishing with the end of Tampa Bay's four-game winning streak.
The distraction offered just enough time to quell a mounting Rays rally and give rookie pitcher Ian Kennedy time to calm down and win his major-league debut, beating Tampa Bay 9-6.
The Rays had just tied the score at 2 and had runners at first and second and a 2-and-2 count on Iwamura when Torre cried foul. After a lengthy delay, the bat was confiscated and Iwamura struck out swinging on the next pitch.
"It was a very opportune time to spring it," Maddon said. "We've played them I don't know how many times this year and the bat's been used every at-bat. ... I'm sure they had it planned. It was well thought out. It was punctuated at the appropriate moment, and now we'll move on."
Not only did Maddon believe it was a gamesmanship move, it raised his ire so much that he requested Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's bat be confiscated, a move Maddon admitted after the game was done totally for retaliation.
Iwamura said, through interpreter Masa Koyanagi, that he sent his bat - which is made by Nike - to Major League Baseball in the offseason before he left Japan to make sure it met MLB specifications.
"I played the whole year with the exact same bat, not only against the Yankees, but since the season started I kept using the exact same bat," Iwamura said.
Torre saw it differently.
"The rules state (the bat) has to be a smooth surface and it just looked like the bat was sawed off," Torre said. "I just asked the umpire to check the bat. I was just curious; I had never seen that before."
According to Section 1.10 of the MLB rule book, which talks about bat specifications, nothing is illegal about a flat-ended barrel. It does talk about limitations on barrel width and indentions on the end of bats.
"Torre contends that no bat manufacturer makes a bat sawed off at the end like that, and he wanted to determine whether it was a legal bat or an illegal bat," umpire crew chief Dana DeMuth said.
DeMuth said Iwamura's and Rodriguez's bats were being taken Saturday afternoon to the MLB offices in Manhattan to be examined. Both players replaced them with the same model bats.
As for the game, shortstop Josh Wilson, who had been lauded for his glove, made three errors, including one that led to a three-run fourth inning that starter Edwin Jackson couldn't escape.
After Jackson issued a leadoff walk to Andy Phillips, catcher Jose Molina hit a chopper that Wilson charged but couldn't glove. Two batters later, Jackson walked Derek Jeter to load the bases, and another walk to Bobby Abreu brought in the first run of the inning, chasing Jackson from the game after 83 pitches.
Left-hander Jon Switzer came in to face Rodriguez, who entered the game hitting 50 points worse vs. left-handers, but Rodriguez hit a double just inside the leftfield line to score two more and give the Yankees a 7-2 lead.
The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first on Rodriguez's two-run homer, his major league-leading 45th, which came after Jackson walked Abreu.
Three of the five men Jackson walked scored.
The Rays tied the score in the second on Wilson's two-run double to the left-centerfield gap. But Kennedy recovered from his 33-pitch second inning. Take away B.J. Upton's 22nd homer, a solo shot in the sixth, and only one Rays baserunner reached for the next four innings. He retired 11 of the final 13 Tampa Bay batters he faced.