MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka are parting ways.
Nishioka approached the team about his release, and the Twins granted the request Friday by letting him go unconditionally. That means Minnesota is not responsible for the $3 million remaining on Nishioka’s contract next season or its $250,000 buyout provision.
“It was tough. I’m sure a big decision,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Friday’s game against Detroit. “I think he wants to get into a situation where he gets an opportunity to kind of renew it and start over. I know he understands what happened up here. It just didn’t work out for him.”
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The Twins signed Nishioka from Japan prior to the 2011 season, giving him a three-year, $9.25 million contract. While playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Nishioka was a batting champion and a Gold Glove infielder. But that success never translated to the American game.
It was a rough go from the start for Nishioka in Minnesota; he broke his leg during the first week of the 2011 season on a play at second base. He was expected to be the team’s starting shortstop but played in just 68 games last season, hitting .226 with 19 RBI and five extra-base hits in 221 at-bats. He also struggled in the field, committing 12 errors (including 10 at shortstop).
Nishioka began this season with Triple-A Rochester and barely played in the majors. He was promoted to the Twins in early August but played in just three games before being optioned back to Rochester. In those three games, Nishioka committed two errors at second base and went 0-for-12 at the plate.
“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.”
Twins general manager Terry Ryan still believes Nishioka, 28, will have another chance to play back in Japan.
“It was probably the best thing to happen for both parties,” Ryan said. “This is an unusual instance just because obviously we had high hopes when we purchased his rights and brought him over. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for either party’s best interest. I think we made a good thing out of a tough situation. …
“I’m sure he’ll do well in Japan. This certainly frees up some payroll for us.”