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Oblique injury ends Nishioka’s season

September 17, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s been a frustrating year for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, whose season came to an early end this week, as he was shut down for the final two weeks with an oblique injury.

Nishioka played in just 68 games this season, his first with the Twins after coming over from Japan. A fractured left fibula suffered on April 7 cost Nishioka 60 games, and he has not played since Sept. 9 due to his current injury.

When he has been healthy, Nishioka has struggled both at the plate and in the field, as he has worked to adjust to Major League Baseball. The 27-year-old shortstop did not hold back in describing the season.

“It’s been a season where everything has gone wrong,” Nishioka said. “In a long life, you have years like this. I think 2011 was a year where everything went the other way. I’ve got to look at it as it’s just this one year, and refocus for next year.”

Nishioka said he planned to begin his offseason workout program earlier than usual, to make up for the time lost this season and better prepare himself for next year. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that strength and conditioning coach Perry Castellano has developed a program for Nishioka to build more upper-body strength.

The hope is that a healthier and stronger Nishioka going into Spring Training could compete for the starting spot at shortstop. At the very least, if he is healthy, the Twins should be better able to tell how Nishioka might fit into their future middle-infield plans.

“It starts with the injuries,” Gardenhire said. “He never really got into the flow of playing games.”

Another player who was effectively shut down after Friday’s game was Jason Kubel, who Gardenhire said would “pinch-hit, at best.” It is unlikely that Kubel will see time in the outfield again this season, and he may not even start as the Twins’ designated hitter again, either.

If Kubel’s left foot pain does not improve, he may not make the trip with the Twins to Yankee Stadium on Monday. Kubel would then join a list of 11 other Twins players not scheduled to make the trip.

Joe Mauer (pneumonia), Justin Morneau (flu), Denard Span (concussion), Alexi Casilla (hamstring), Scott Baker (elbow), Nick Blackburn (forearm strain), and Nishioka will not travel to New York. Also staying back in Minnesota will be the four starters — Carl Pavano, Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Slowey and Liam Hendriks — not scheduled to pitch against the Yankees.

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