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Updated: April 8th, 2011 7:01pm
Notebook: 'Best-case scenario' is 4 to 6 weeks for Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Notebook: 'Best-case scenario' is 4 to 6 weeks for Tsuyoshi Nishioka

by Tom Pelissero
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka's fractured left fibula won't require surgery or a cast, but the Minnesota Twins' second baseman will miss at least four to six weeks.

That's the "best-case scenario," manager Ron Gardenhire said on Friday, one day after Nishioka was injured by New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher's takeout slide while trying to turn a double play.

Dr. John Steubs, the Twins' team physician, examined Nishioka on Friday and recommended he stay on crutches until swelling and soreness dissipates.

"It's in a little bone, which is not a weight-bearing bone, so that's good," Gardenhire said. "As soon as he gets the soreness out, he'll start doing workouts on a bicycle. It'll probably help us out a little bit better that way -- a little less time we hope -- but it's just going to be a process of letting him go to the doctors."

Nishioka's translator, Ryo Shinkawa, pushed the former Japanese league star into clubhouse in a wheelchair after the Twins' 2-1 win over the Oakland Athletics in their home opener at Target Field.

Repeatedly saying he wants to return "as soon as possible," Nishioka said he might not have planted his foot and tried to throw with Swisher bearing down on him had the situation been different. The Twins had just trimmed the Yankees' lead to 4-3 when the injury occurred in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"Depending on the score in Japan, those plays happen as it happened (Thursday)," said Nishioka, who received a rousing ovation when introduced before the game to the sellout crowd of 40,714.

"Maybe I could have avoided and not throw, if the score was a more bigger lead or a different score. But I feel that I did my best play out there, and that's the result, and I feel bad of being injured, but that's the best play I showed out there."

Such hard slides rarely are seen in Japanese baseball, but Gardenhire said the issue had been discussed and isn't an excuse.

"You're going to get hit at second base," Gardenhire said. "It's going to happen. He just got caught with his feet down on the ground. The ball came across, it was a slower-hit ball -- it happened.

"We did talk about staying out of the basepaths. We did talk about getting in the air. He's played. He's a Gold Glover at second base (in Japan). He knows all these things. It's just one of those slides that he got caught with his feet down on the ground and he got hit."

Hughes gets the call

Luke Hughes was taking batting practice before the Class-AAA Rochester Red Wings' season opener on Thursday when teammate Trevor Plouffe told him about Nishioka's injury.

The wheels immediately began to turn in Hughes' head, and before he could get into the field to take grounders, Red Wings manager Tom Nieto delivered the news: Hughes was to be on the first plane to the Twin Cities on Friday morning.

After leading the Twins this spring in home runs (six) and RBIs (15), the 26-year-old Australian said he's more prepared for the opportunity than he was for his brief stint with the big-league club last season.

"I understand my game now," Hughes said. "I've been playing baseball for a long time now. So, if I continue to just do what I can do, not try to do too much, we'll see what happens.

"Obviously, it's another big step for me coming up here and trying to fill Nishi's shoes, which is going to be tough. He's a great player. Anything I can do to help the Twins out, that's all I'm trying to do."

Hughes was 0-for-3 in his debut and also had some tough luck in the field, getting booed once for not making a throw on a close play at first base and having a line drive carom off his glove in the ninth.

Improved vision

The batter's eye in center field was something of a strange sight, with a fresh coat of black paint and no pine trees swaying in the mid-afternoon breeze.

And several Twins said they were thrilled.

"It's definitely an improvement, for sure," catcher Joe Mauer said. "Right now, it's just like a day game, but once that shadow starts to creep in, then you'll find out how much better it is."

Players complained on several occasions last season about the sun reflecting off the wall and unusual shadows being cast by the since-removed trees, particularly for 3:10 p.m. starts the one on Friday.

The sky was overcast for most of Friday's game. But Jason Kubel, whose pinch-hit single helped fuel the Twins' eighth-inning rally, said he "saw everything" even in batting practice when the sun was shining.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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