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Twins notebook, 7/23

July 23, 2011

Nishioka showing improvement at short

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka is still struggling at the plate, and he has had particular trouble against pitchers with good off-speed stuff.

Nishioka had begun to look more comfortable, but over the past eight games, he’s batted just .154, picking up four hits in 26 at-bats. He also has two RBIs and six strikeouts over that span.

In the first two games against the Tigers, Nishioka went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts.

“You look at the two pitchers we faced, both of them were throwing 96 [mph], with changeups and curveballs,” Gardenhire said, referring to right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. “That’s two really good performances against us.”

Gardenhire also noted that Nishioka likely could use a day off, as he’s been in the lineup for all but one game since June 16.

While Nishioka’s offense still has plenty of room for improvement, his defense has improved significantly of late compared to how he looked in his first few games at shortstop. Nishioka has made five errors in 143 chances at short, but his range, arm and confidence have all looked much better in July than they did in June.

“He’s gotten a lot better,” Gardenhire said. “He’s starting to trust his hands, his backhand and all those things. He’s seeing the ball into his glove a lot more and not rushing it. … He’s starting to understand people and how they run.”

Numbers game leaves Hughes odd man out

MINNEAPOLIS — When infielder Luke Hughes learned he had been optioned to Triple-A Rochester after Friday’s 8-2 loss to the Tigers, he was noticeably disappointed while sitting at his locker.

Sending Hughes down was an unexpected move, but one the Twins felt was necessary to keep an extra pitcher on the roster after they activated right-hander Scott Baker.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he, too, was disappointed about the move.

“Yes, I was,” Gardenhire said. “I didn’t want to have to do that. But with a couple short performances in a row and however many games we’ve got going here, we’ve got to keep another pitcher, especially with Baker going today.”

Hughes had seen his playing time decrease significantly lately, with Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe getting most of the starts as first base for the Twins. But Hughes was at one time the Twins’ everyday first baseman, when Justin Morneau went on the disabled list with a wrist injury.

Gardenhire has been forced to go to his bullpen quite a bit lately, with Chuck James, Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett all throwing more than 30 pitches in their most recent outings.

With no off-days until August 1, the Twins are not likely to send a pitcher down soon.

“I don’t see how you could go to Texas without having plenty of pitching,” Gardenhire said. “My only concern there is the heat for the position players. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees every day down there; that’s my concern.”

As Gardenhire mentioned earlier in the homestand, Hughes would have been the Twins’ third catcher, if needed. With him gone, who would fill that role?

“Whoever’s left on the bench,” Gardenhire said. “It’d probably be Plouffey. Good luck.”

Rest for Revere not in cards right away

MINNEAPOLIS — Since June 2, center fielder Ben Revere has been in the Twins’ lineup on a daily basis.

Over the first 25 games, Revere batted .294 with four doubles, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored. He also stole seven bases in 10 attempts.

In his past 20 games, though, he’s hit at just a .202 clip with a triple, three walks, five RBIs and eight strikeouts. Revere has stolen four bases in six attempts this month. Things have been even worse over the past six games, as Revere has gone 1-for-25 with two strikeouts.

“The heat’s been unbelievable, he’s playing every day and I think he needs a break,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He probably could use a day or so, but right now, this is not the time. I need him at the top of the lineup. I would love to give him a break.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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