Nishioka back in bigs, out to prove he belongs

Nishioka back in bigs, out to prove he belongs

Nishioka back in bigs, out to prove he belongs
CLEVELAND -- After spending the last four months at Triple-A Rochester, Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his return with the Twins on Monday night, starting at second base and batting seventh against the Indians.

It was Nishioka's first game back in the Majors since Sept. 9 of last season and his first big league start at second base since April 7, 2011, when he broke his left leg on a hard slide from Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher while trying to turn a double play.

Nishioka, who hit .245 with a .309 on-base percentage and .301 slugging percentage in 84 games in Triple-A, said he's eager to prove he belongs in the big leagues after struggling last year. He hit just .226/.278/.249 with five doubles and 19 RBIs in 68 games last season after signing a three-year deal worth $9.25 million.

"I think I was able to maintain my motivation down there," Nishioka said through translator Ryo Shinkawa. "And just because I came back, it's not a point I should be excited about, but it's a new start and the start of the season for me."

Nishioka had been playing better recently with the Red Wings, as he hit .298 in 27 games in July. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he heard good things about his defense at second base as well.

So Gardenhire said he'll stick with Nishioka at second and see how he fares in his second chance with the Twins. He added that Nishioka likely won't be the one sent down once third baseman Trevor Plouffe returns from the disabled list, which could come as soon as Friday.

"All the reports have been that he's playing fantastic baseball and having quality at-bats and playing solid defense," Gardenhire said. "So I'm excited to see if he can carry that right into here and do what we had planned him doing from the get-go."