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Iwamura's knee problem hurting defense

Iwamura's knee problem hurting defense

PITTSBURGH -- When general manager Neal Huntington announced the acquisition of Aki Iwamura in October, he was asked about the second baseman's surgically repaired left knee. Would it affect Iwamura's range? Might it still linger in 2010?

At the time, Huntington said he was confident that the injury would present no problems a year later. Now, though, Huntington concedes that it could be part of the reason for Iwamura's disappointing season start.

A .281 hitter in three seasons with the Rays, Iwamura entered Sunday hitting just .194 with a .294 on-base percentage. He has just two hits in 20 at-bats so far this month.

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"He cares, and like most professionals when they struggle, they begin to make their problems worse because they begin to try too hard," Huntington said.

The knee, though, has appeared to be an even bigger issue in the field. Iwamura has shown a lack of defensive range, and he has been slow to turn double plays, particularly on the receiving end of the shortstop's feed. It was while turning a double play last year that Iwamura was taken out and suffered a torn ACL. That could explain some of his hesitancy now.

"The knee is probably a bigger factor than we recognized in September, just in terms of confidence," Huntington said. "I think that the contact on the double play -- using the bag as a shield rather than coming through on the double play -- that's human nature. I know [infield coach] Carlos [Garcia] will continue to work with him to do the things he needs to do to maximize his ability to put something on his throws and also protect himself."

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