The Rays lost on and off the field today as they dropped the final game of a three game set to the Florida Marlins 5-4 in 11 innings. Erik already covered the deciding factors in the game, but the Rays may have lost their keystone player for much longer. We still don't know what the injury is or the severity, but early signs are Akinori Iwamura will be out of the Rays lineup for quite some time. In a classy move, Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan, whose slide injured Iwamura, visited the Rays clubhouse after the game and apologized to Aki. Apologizes are nice, but the Rays are likely to be without their second basemen for while. Aki's double play partner, Jason Bartlett, who was injured himself on a slide late in the game, told Marc Lancaster "from what I heard, he's not going to be back soon."
Over the next few days and weeks we could see a few different second basemen depending on matchups. With Pat Burrell not expected back until Tuesday at the earliest, I expect Reid Brignac to get some playing time at second base or at least a look. Brignac is slated to start for Bartlett at short stop tomorrow, a schedule day off for Bartlett that was announced before today's game. If Iwamura is out for an extended period of time which is expected, the Rays have two candidates on the roster already to fill in.
Willy Aybar, a player we have already speculated as Iwamura's successor, figures to get some playing time at the position. He has played 33 career games at second base and has shown to be an above average defender during that small sample size. He would be an upgrade over Iwamura offensively.
The other option is Ben Zobrist, who has now surpassed Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler in right field UZR ratings. Once more, UZR is good measurement of how a player has been up to this point, but has little predictive value going forward. Nonetheless, Zobrist's bat has warranted more playing time and this could be an opportunity to get him those at-bats. Most of Benzo's playing time this season has come in the outfield, but he does have a handful of starts at second including last night. In a smaller sample size than Aybar, Zobrist has also shown to be slightly above average at second base.
Any time you lose a starter of Iwamura's quality it hurts, but if we've learned anything the Rays are built to survive things of this nature. Sure, it would've helped to have held on to Adam Kennedy for a few days longer, but hindsight is 20-20. The Rays have three capable candidates to replace Iwamura right now, and if Andrew Friedman sees a move that strengthens the teams depth at the position I'm sure he'll do that. However, like I said above, the Rays are built to handle these type of situation.
Best of luck to Aki and whoever plays second base for the Rays going forward.