Well, that was quick. Within hours of my posting my latest roster update, the Twins announced a dozen cuts to trim the number of players in the major league camp to 45. The most noteworthy of the cuts was Tsuyoshi Nishioka being optioned to AAA Rochester.
That move is not really too surprising as he had not shown enough improvement to win a spot on the Twins. He was certainly not going to be a starter at either shortstop or second base and he is not a good enough hitter to serve as a pinch hitter. Neither is he good enough in the field to serve as a utility infielder.
It is difficult to be very optimistic about his chances to get back to the major leagues. As I have written before, his long-time habits from playing a different style of baseball in Japan are going to be very difficult to break. Playing regularly might help some, but it is going to take a lot of teaching and willingness to be coachable for him to get on track.
Terry Ryan commenting during the 2nd inning of the Twins’ radio broadcast today indicated that Nishioka was going to be playing both second base and shortstop to try to get him ready to return to the Twins. I am no coaching or baseball expert, but it seems to me that learning more than one position is more of a challenge than focusing on two or more positions. And, his hitting is going to need quite a bit of work as well.
Now that the difficult decision to demote Nishioka has been made, in spite of the $3 million he is due this year and next, it will be easier for the Twins to eventually release him to return to Japan. I have very little hope for him to be worth anything in a trade, even as an extra thrown in on a multi-player deal. He is either going to improve tremendously – and surprise virtually everyone – or he is going to be relegated to the minor leagues to play out his contract if he is not released.