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Nishioka, Twins agree to three-year deal

Nishioka, Twins agree to three-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka is officially a Twin.

Minnesota announced Friday that it had agreed to terms with the Japanese infielder on a three-year, $9 million contract that includes a club option for the 2014 season.

The Twins have scheduled a news conference for Saturday at 4 p.m. CT at Target Field to introduce the newest member of their middle infield.

"We are happy that we came to an agreement," said Rick Thurman, Nishioka's agent from the Beverly Hills Sports Council, in a statement. "Both sides wanted this to work out, and the fact that we finalized this well in advance of the deadline reflects that. Nishioka is excited to start the season, and I think the Twins' fans will enjoy watching him play."

Nishioka arrived in the Twin Cities from Japan with his wife on Thursday morning. The Twins said that Nishioka was undergoing standard physical examinations on Thursday and Friday, and he was also expected to meet some of the organization's staff.

The 26-year-old is the first player from the Japanese Leagues to sign with the Twins. A switch-hitter, Nishioka won the Japanese Pacific League batting title last season after hitting .346 for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He led the league in hits (206), runs (121) and total bases (287), in addition to hitting 11 home runs and delivering 59 RBIs. Nishioka also stole 22 bases in 2010, and he is expected to give the Twins more speed in their lineup, which is something the club has been seeking this offseason.

Last month, the Twins posted the winning bid of $5 million for exclusive negotiating rights with Nishioka. The club had until Dec. 26 to negotiate a deal or it would have gotten its $5 million posting bid back. But the team didn't wait until the deadline to get this deal finished and ensure that Nishioka will be making his Major League debut in 2011 for the Twins.

It remains unclear just which position that Nishioka will play. A Gold Glove Award winner at both second base and shortstop in Japan, Nishioka has the versatility to play either of the middle-infield positions. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that he will wait until Spring Training -- when he can see Nishioka on the field -- before he decides what position the Japanese infielder will play.

Alexi Casilla is expected to be Nishioka's double-play partner next season.

One thing that also remains undecided for Nishioka is what number he will wear with the Twins. Nishioka wore No. 7 in Japan, but that number belongs to, of course, Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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