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Updated: June 15th, 2011 4:13pm
Tsuyoshi Nishioka activated from DL, likely to start at SS Thursday

Tsuyoshi Nishioka activated from DL, likely to start at SS Thursday

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka finally is going to get to make his Target Field debut.

The Minnesota Twins reinstated the Japanese import from the 60-day disabled list on Wednesday afternoon, more than two months after Nishioka fractured his left fibula while trying to turn a double play against the New York Yankees.

Nishioka wasn't in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Chicago White Sox, but manager Ron Gardenhire said the plan is for him to start at shortstop in Thursday's matinee.

"Actually, he wasn't going to be activated until we put (Justin) Morneau on the DL," Gardenhire said. "We were going to let him come up here and regroup. He's been playing a lot of baseball. A nice day off to relax a little bit, enjoy a ballgame. But he's active for the game. I can use him. I told him maybe he'll pinch hit later in the game, whatever, and then he'll be in the lineup (Thursday)."

Gardenhire said as far as the batting order goes, "I've talked with Nishi about that already. I'll make that decision overnight."

Earlier in the day, the Twins cleared room for Nishioka on the 40-man roster by placing reliever Dusty Hughes on outright waivers. Nishioka takes the 25-man roster spot of Morneau, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday with a wrist injury.

Nishioka began the season as the Twins' starting second baseman, but he has taken most of his rehab assignment reps at shortstop. Gardenhire has said repeatedly that Nishioka will return as a shortstop, despite how well Alexi Casilla has currently been playing at the position.

"I felt really comfortable playing shortstop (while rehabbing)," Nishioka said, "So I told Gardy that I'm comfortable at any position, second or short, whatever he decides, I'll be comfortable playing."

Nishioka is coming off a rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Rochester, where he hit .333 (4-for-12) with a double and an RBI in three games. He also spent time with the Twins' extended spring training squad and at Single-A Fort Myers, working some with former Twin Paul Molitor on ways to avoid the sort of collisions that sidelined him in April.

"In Triple-A they said he was everywhere," Gardenhire said. "He was flying all over the place and was fun to watch ... Nothing but good reports."

Nishioka took time during early batting practice to make a lap around the outfield, greeting teammates he hasn't seen in two months. He also spent time in the clubhouse catching up with players, coaches and media members.

"I was looking forward to playing in front of the fans here in Target Field," Nishioka said through his translator, Ryo Shinkawa. "So I think it will be a very special moment for me, looking at my life as well. I think it will be very special."

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
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