Live from Florida, Day 6: Nishioka 'more excited than nervous'
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Tuesday at Minnesota Twins spring training:
Catching up with ... Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Tsuyoshi Nishioka spent time Tuesday morning meeting and greeting some of his new teammates and also addressing both Japanese and American reporters.
Nishioka, who said he's "more excited than nervous" about beginning full-squad workouts, walked from one end of the clubhouse to the other, shaking each teammates' hand while saying, "nice to meet you."
"There is a family atmosphere here," Nishioka said through his translator. "It's an honor to be a part of this (beginning Wednesday), and I'm looking forward to participating in the practices."
One of the key challenges for Nishioka will be communicating with Alexi Casilla on defense. Nishioka plans to learn English in time, but for now Casilla said the two plan to use hand signals early on. Casilla also said -- perhaps only half-jokingly -- that he might use an armband with Japanese phrases as well.
"It's Japanese and Spanish so there is somewhat of a barrier," Nishioka said, "but from tomorrow we will be wearing the same jerseys and we'll try to communicate and have it in full mode by the start of the season."
Aside from joining teammates on a couple occasions for batting practice and infield, Nishioka has spent the last two weeks working out alone with his personal trainers on the far practice fields at the Lee County Sports Complex. He has yet to put on a Twins uniform, instead electing to wear black and yellow Adidas capri pants.
Starting Wednesday, however, Nishioka "of course" will join the group for good.
"I was looking forward to participating in the practice starting from the 23rd on the first workout, so I just wanted to be in the best shape possible to start from the 23rd."
Japanese spring training traditionally starts on February 1.
"That kind of led to the decision of practicing alone, trying to adjust to that," he said.
As for his interactions with manager Ron Gardenhire, Nishioka said, "I feel that he's a great, lively guy and taking (my) back."
Gardenhire made it clear Tuesday that Nishioka is not competing for a starting role, regardless of potential early struggles.
"I just want to make sure that he understands that we know he can play," Gardenhire said. "We know the young man can play baseball and that he doesn't have anything to prove over here, we just want him to fit in and be a part of it and do his work and get to know everybody and all of those things.
"I'll learn more of him as we go along. Bottom line, he's been an all-star over there and won a batting title and he can play. He doesn't have to prove that to us. We just want him to fit in to our program and go from there, and see how we do things over here and learn it day by day and work with us. and that's what we're going to do, and he's very excited to do that."
And as for what he thinks the biggest differences will be between the major leagues and the Pacific League, Nishioka said, "everything."
The show officially begins on Wednesday.
1: The number of Japanese language-learning books sitting on Gardenhire's desk. This particular book is called, "Survival Japanese." Gardenhire also has a printed list of Japanese baseball terms.
• LHP Francisco Liriano (elbow) threw his first bullpen session of spring training on Tuesday. Liriano said the session "went good," but also noted that he didn't throw 100%. The Twins will evaluate how Liriano's shoulder feels on Wednesday.
• C Joe Mauer (knee) has had two injections that Gardenhire classified as "some type of fluid to help lubricate" since arriving to spring training, and it's unlikely he will do any catching during live batting practice or in the first few games.
Gardenhire said Mauer "is feeling a lot better" since undergoing offseason surgery, but he added, "doing the squatting, we're going to stay away from a lot of that."
"He'll do some of the sign stuff and all of that, but as far as catching during live BP, I'm not going to have him back there right now, I'm not ready for that. I don't want to see that happen right now."
Mauer and Gardenhire have been consistent saying that April 1 is the target date to have Mauer back to full strength, not March 23.
"I'm just going to bide my time with that and make sure we get him in situations and get him ready."
• RHP Scott Baker (elbow) is the only pitcher who will be somewhat limited when full-squad workouts begin. According to Gardenhire, Baker's changeup still triggers some elbow discomfort, so he will not throw live batting practice for the first couple days.
"You can put your hand up for that one."
-- Delmon Young, making fun of Denard Span after Span hit a monster home run to right field during batting practice. Span mistakenly put his hand up in celebration during a game last season when he thought he hit a walk-off grand slam. Instead, the ball was caught on the warning track.
-- Span, in response to Young.
"That's a single at Target Field."
-- Morneau after hitting a mammoth home run to right-center field in batting practice.
Full-squad workouts begin Wednesday.