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Tsuyoshi Nishioka bout time


Ice Shack Baby

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Minnesota Twins, Tsuyoshi Nishioka finally call it quits

Tsuyoshi Nishioka was willing to walk away from $3.25 million, and the Twins were willing to oblige, so the two officially parted ways on Friday, Sept. 28, when the Twins honored his request to be released from the last year of his contract.

"I would like to thank the Twins organization for helping me fulfill my dream of playing in Major League Baseball," Nishioka said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations. At this time, I have made the decision that it is time to part ways."

The outright release clears the Twins' obligation to pay him $3 million in 2013, as well as a $250,000 buyout. All that's left now are the punch lines.

Nishioka had just won Japan's Pacific League batting title with a .346 average and 206 hits when the Twins signed him to a three-year, $9.25 million contract prior to the 2011 season. Winner of the Japanese equivalent of the Gold Glove at second base and shortstop, Nishioka was supposed to fill a middle infield slot and bat second behind Denard Span as the Twins retooled for a run at a third straight American League Central title.

Instead, he became an albatross, a reminder the past two seasons of everything that was wrong with a Twins organization badly in need of a tune-up. It was Minnesota's first foray into Japanese baseball and could not have gone any worse.

The guy who led his Chiba Lotte team to a Nippon Professional League championship in 2010 simply could not play major league baseball. In 71 major league games, Nishioka hit .215 with five doubles, 20 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Worse, he looked uneasy from the start, a mysterious development for those who had watched him perform admirably in his first spring training.

Once the games counted, however, Nishioka looked lost. In the season's second series, he was taken out by the Yankees' Nick Swisher as he broke up a double-play attempt at New York. The slide broke Nishioka's leg and he missed the next three months while his leg recovered, but his major league career never did.

When Terry Ryan replaced Bill Smith, who had signed Nishioka, as general manager last November he made it clear Nishioka would get another chance to prove he belongs. But the infielder was dismissed from his second training camp on the second day of cuts and started the 2012 season at Class AAA Rochester, where he played 101 games, batting .258 with a .310 on-base percentage.

The Twins recalled him on Aug. 6 and he played all three games of a series in Cleveland, proving once and for all that he was never going to play regularly for the Twins. Playing second base, Nishioka fielded the first batted ball of the day and committed an error of epic proportions, trying to catch a high-hopper heel-up. After the ball bounce off his chest, he bobbled it a few times before trying to throw to first. As Nishioka lost his balance he shot-putted the ball into foul territory while falling.

The play served as a GIF for the entire Nishioka experiment, though it wasn't the end of a bad series. The straw the broke the camel's back came in the third game, when Nishioka lost a pop fly in the sun. Unable to find it, he threw up his hands, turned his back and walked away from the play, leaving Ben Revere to run in from right field and keep the runner at second.

The play infuriated Ryan, who addressed it the next day. "Well, he certainly showed some panic when he turned his back on the pop fly he dropped," he said. "That's not acceptable."

Nishioka never played another game for the Twins, and on Aug. 20 was released from the 40-man roster, unclaimed by 29 other teams.

The Twins paid Chiba Lotte $5.32 million for exclusive negotiating rights, and paid Nishioka $6 million for the past two seasons. When they outrighted Nishioka last month, their best bet to recoup some money was to sell the final year of his deal to a Japanese team, but Nishioka's request made it simpler. Nishioka is no longer part of the organization, and the Twins have trimmed $3 million from next season's budget.

"I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger," Nishioka said in his statement. "I appreciate all the support the team and the fans in Minnesota and Rochester have shown me."

Copyright 2012 TwinCities. All rights reserved.

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Thanks nishi. He coulda stuck around and sucked down that 3 million.

3 million is certainly enough for Terry to sign one of his patented washed up veterans.

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Stop smoking, try to improve your game and adjust to the MLB game, don't two time your supermodel wife, hit a curveball (things Nishi couldn't do). Yet he could walk away from the guaranteed money? I'll credit him for that.

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