Nishioka preparing to prove himself on field

Nishioka preparing to prove himself on field

Nishioka preparing to prove himself on field
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Tsuyoshi Nishioka could see some time at third base in Spring Training as he prepares for a utility role.

Nishioka played 60 games at shortstop and six games at second base last year, as he missed most of the season with a fractured left fibula suffered in early April and a strained oblique suffered mid-August.

He's currently battling for a backup infielder role, along with Luke Hughes and non-roster invitees Brian Dozier and Sean Burroughs.

"He's a shortstop who can play second, and we'll probably give him some exposure at third," Ryan said. "I did see him for the first time visually today, and he's noticeably stronger in the bottom half. I think that's apparent. But the transition has to be smoother. He's been here, he's been around us and has been around the league and the staff."

When healthy, Nishioka struggled defensively with 12 errors. He also hit .226 with a .527 OPS in 240 plate appearances.

Nishioka, who is in the second year of a three-year deal worth $9.25 million, acknowledged that this is a big season for him.

"It definitely was a tough season," Nishioka said through translator Ryo Shinkawa, "That's why I came back to challenge this year again. If I don't put up the numbers this year, it might be better to throw it all out."

When asked for clarification on what Nishioka meant by his last statement, his translator said "There's really no deep meaning to it."

But the Nishioka and the Twins both know last year was one to forget, and the hope is that he can stay healthy and improve this season.

"I think we just have to throw that year out," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It didn't work out for him too well, and for any of us. We're going to throw it out. We're going to put him back out there with the rest of them and see what happens, see what kind of player we have. Hopefully we'll be able to see a little bit better of what we have. Last year was kind of a mess."