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Updated: September 28th, 2012 10:48am
Tsuyoshi Nishioka granted unconditional release from Twins

Tsuyoshi Nishioka granted unconditional release from Twins

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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The Tsuyoshi Nishioka era is officially over.

On Friday, the Twins announced Nishioka asked for, and was granted, his unconditional release from the organization. The Twins will not be on the hook for Nishioka's $3 million salary and $250,000 buyout for the 2013 season. Nishioka immediately becomes a free agent.

The Twins signed Nishioka to a three-year, $9 million deal prior to the 2011 season. The plan was for him to replace J.J. Hardy as the starting shortstop, but that plan went awry very quickly.

In 254 plate appearances with the Twins over the past two seasons, Nishioka hit just .215/.267/.236 with five extra-base hits and two stolen bases. He didn't fare much better at Triple-A, hitting .258/.315/.324.

Defensively, Nishioka looked mostly uncomfortable and rigid at shortstop and second base.

His career got off to a terrible start in April of 2011 when he broke his leg while attempting to turn a double play against the Yankees. Nick Swisher's take-out slide caught Nishioka in a position where his leg was still planted in the ground. In Japan, players generally don't slide nearly as hard into second base as they do in the major leagues.

Nishioka came over to the United States with much fanfare. He won the Japanese Pacific League batting title in 2010 by hitting .346 for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Upon arriving to spring training in February of 2011, Nishioka was followed by no fewer than 15 Japanese media members on a daily basis. That number dwindled to three by the end of his first season.

The writing was on the wall for Nishioka when the Twins removed him from the 40-man roster on Aug. 20.

"I would like to thank the Twins organization for helping me fulfill my dream of playing in Major League Baseball," Nishioka said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations. At this time, I have made the decision that it is time to part ways. I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger. I appreciate all the support the team and the fans in Minnesota and Rochester have shown me. Arigatou gozaimasu."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: J.J. Hardy, Tsuyoshi Nishioka
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