Nishioka signed a three-year, $9.25 million contract in November of 2010 to become the Twins' starting second baseman. Nishioka previously had played shortstop with the Chiba Lotte Marines and was considered to be one of the best overseas prospects in baseball.
However, Nishioka's first season with the Twins was an utter disappointment. After showing promise in spring training, Nishioka broke his leg in the sixth game of the season after failing to get out of the way of a Nick Swisher takeout slide.
Nishioka would return in mid-June, but his impact in the Twins lineup would be minimal as he hit .226 with just five extra-base hits in 221 at-bats.
Whether it was his leg, or a constant struggle to adjust to Major League pitching, Nishioka never seemed comfortable after returning from his injury.
It also didn't help things when the man that Nishioka replaced, J.J. Hardy, had a career season after being traded to the Baltimore Orioles.
Nishioka was expected to compete for the utility role for the Twins, but after 10 games of spring training, the Twins decided that enough was enough and wanted Nishioka to try to develop at the Triple-A level.
The backlash of the move extends well beyond the diamond as the normally frugal Twins committed $3 million to Nishioka in 2012 alone, and now will look at all options to find a replacement.
While the move almost secures a roster spot for infielder Luke Hughes (who was out of options this spring), the Twins will still need to find someone who can play shortstop and back up 38-year-old Jamey Carroll.
One possibility could be prospect Brian Dozier, who has impressed the Twins throughout spring training and could find himself at the Major Leagues soon. However, it's far more likely that Dozier will begin the season with Nishioka at Triple-A Rochester and make his debut midway through the 2012 season.
There is the option of looking at free agents as well, but at this point in the spring there is usually a reason why a player is still a free agent.
The Twins have now dug themselves a hole after the Nishioka experiment failed, and will hope that either Carroll or someone else can hold down the fort until Dozier is ready.
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