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Valencia’s go-ahead hit spurs Twins

July 20, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — When it comes to hitting with the bases loaded, Danny Valencia is well aware of the success he’s had in his career. Rather than let the pressure of the situation get to him, Valencia has shown a flair for the dramatic in his career, coming up with big hits in those moments.

Valencia did it on Tuesday night with a walk-off single, and he did it again on Wednesday with another go-ahead single as the Twins rode a three-run eighth to a 7-5 victory over the Indians. With the win, the Twins got back to five games under .500 and five games behind the Indians, right where they were when the series began.

After losing both games of Monday’s doubleheader, the Twins looked to be on the verge of falling back into a big hole in the American League Central. Instead, they split the series with the Indians and will look to gain ground with a big series starting on Thursday against the first-place Tigers.

The Twins have yet to beat the Tigers this season. And the last time that they were in Detroit, the Twins left at their lowest point, with a 17-37 record, 16 1/2 games out of first.

“It wasn’t fun leaving Detroit and flying wherever we went to next after that,” Valencia said. “But a lot’s changed since then, our team’s really clicked a little bit, we’re playing good baseball and I still don’t think we’re playing our best baseball.

“Eventually when we do click on all cylinders like we can, I think we’re going to be a really, really tough team to beat.”

With his single, Valencia improved to 10-for-18 with 22 RBIs in his career with the bases loaded. He also has 21 RBIs this season in the seventh inning or later, a category in which he ranked sixth in the American League entering the game.

After falling behind 1-2, Valencia got just enough of a fastball from Vinnie Pestano, slapping a soft liner to right field that just got over the glove of Orlando Cabrera at second base.

“It’s fun,” Valencia said. “You know what’s on the line and it makes you kind of relax a little bit, even though it’s hard to really believe that. You don’t try to do too much in those situations. One run, like I’ve always said, is enough. Anything else after that is a bonus. Being able today to get another hit with the bases loaded is just huge.”

Alexi Casilla scored easily from third, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled home a pair of runs two batters later for some breathing room.

Nishioka’s hit proved crucial in the ninth, when Twins closer Joe Nathan surrendered a one-out homer to Lonnie Chisenhall.

“Today was about Nishioka, I think,” Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. “If Nishioka doesn’t get that hit, we’re still out there playing.”

Casilla, who scored the go-ahead run, celebrated his 27th birthday — and said he was getting ‘old’ after the game — by going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, the second of which sparked the Twins’ big eighth inning.

Leading off the eighth, Casilla drove an 0-1 changeup from Pestano into the gap in left. The ball fell between Indians left fielder Luis Valbuena and center fielder Ezequiel Carrera and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.

The bounce over the wall was a tough break for the Twins and Casilla, who would have had at least a triple if the ball remained in play.

“I thought it was a homer,” Casilla said. “I thought it hit the glove and got over. I thought it was gone. And then I look, and they were on the ball, and I said, “Oh my god.'”

For the Indians, the play was another crucial situation that could have gone differently if they weren’t playing Valbuena — an infielder — in left field.

In addition to Casilla’s double that could have been caught for an out, Valbuena also had the two biggest hits of Tuesday’s game fall in front of him.

“If you have an everyday outfielder, I’m sure that it probably could have been caught,” said Indians manager Manny Acta. “We know what we’re dealing with. Luis is playing out of position. He played a lot of left field at Triple-A, but it’s a different ballgame up here.”

But the Indians were not the only ones that made crucial mistakes in the game on defense.

Twins starter Nick Blackburn pitched well, but a few mistakes — by him as well as the Twins’ defense — allowed the Indians to push four runs across against the right-hander. Only one of the four was earned, and Blackburn allowed just four hits and two walks, while striking out seven.

The Indians plated three runs in the fourth, two of which were unearned as center fielder Ben Revere dropped a long fly ball. In the sixth, Cleveland added another unearned run as Travis Hafner scored on a passed ball.

“There were a couple things that happened behind me, but we still ended up winning the game,” Blackburn said. “That’s all we need right now. All the wins, especially against teams that are ahead of us, is what’s important. I’ll take that outing every time.”

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

Twins notebook, 7/17

July 17, 2011 Comments off

Twins put Baker on DL, promote Diamond

MINNEAPOLIS — The Twins made a number of roster moves after Sunday’s game, placing Scott Baker on the disabled list, selecting the contract of Scott Diamond, while optioning Matt Tolbert and recalling Chuck James.With Baker having second thoughts about his scheduled start on Monday afternoon, the Twins chose to put him on the 15-day DL, giving the right-hander a few more days to rest his strained right elbow.

“He was really unsure whether he was going to be able to go in this start,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He thought he could pitch, but he didn’t know the ramifications after he pitched, how that would come into play, if he’d be really sore and end up having to miss starts after it.”

In place of Baker, Anthony Swarzak will start the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Indians. He was originally scheduled to pitch the nightcap of the twin bill.

Diamond, a lefty who is 4-8 with a 4.70 ERA for Triple-A Rochester this season, will make his Major League debut in Game 2 of the doubleheader.

A 2010 Rule 5 Draft selection by the Twins, Diamond will take the 40-man roster spot once occupied by Eric Hacker.

“We’ll give [Diamond] a chance to kind of regroup, sit around here, see what it’s all about, get a feel for a few more things,” Gardenhire said. “We’re facing the Cleveland Indians and he’s being thrown into a fire here, so we’ll see how he does. He’s a nice-looking young pitcher.”

Baker was scheduled to make his first start since July 5, when he exited the game after just five innings due to a right elbow strain.

Instead, he’ll be on the DL until at least Friday with the move retroactive to July 7.

“He wanted to pitch, but it just wasn’t going to work out,” Gardenhire said. “He was very unsure of how it was going to turn out. You can’t have uncertainty out there.”

Span will stay in center field upon return

MINNEAPOLIS — When he returns from the disabled list, Denard Span will be the Twins center fielder.

When asked if he had given any thought about how the outfield would look when Span returns from the DL after being sidelined for six weeks with a concussion, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he would not take away Span’s starting spot due to the injury.

“Denard’s our center fielder,” Gardenhire said.

“You’re talking about a personality here that feels he belongs in center field, too. You have to weigh a lot of things. He’s earned his right to play center field.”

With Span out, rookie Ben Revere has done an excellent job filling in, both at the plate and in the field.

Gardenhire indicated he would like to keep Revere in the lineup, but would not do so at Span’s expense.

“We’ll just let it play out, see what happens,” Gardenhire said. “If I have to make changes I would — but I’d talk to Denard about that [first] — to keep everybody’s bats in the lineup. We’ve already seen Revere can play right field, too.

“So, if I have to keep his bat in the lineup, which I would love to, it’s not going to be easy, but we’re just going to have to figure it out. Whatever makes us win, whatever makes us go. Right now Ben’s been making us go.”

Gardy, Nishioka let it ride for World Cup

MINNEAPOLIS — With their respective nations squaring off in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, manager Ron Gardenhire and infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka made a friendly wager on the game.

There is no money riding on the game between the United States and Japan, but the loser of the bet will have to wear a T-shirt of the winner’s choice.

“It’s a very exciting day for both of us,” Gardenhire said. “Our women versus his women. Pretty neat.”

The Twins skipper said he already had a shirt in mind for Nishioka.

“I wish I could trash talk in Japanese right now, ’cause he’d hear it all,” Gardenhire said. “He’s going to have to wear, ‘I love American women.’ I don’t know what he’s got for me.”

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

Twins notebook, 6/25

June 25, 2011 Comments off

Gardenhire holds team meeting to clear air

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MILWAUKEE — If he did not want to throw a 3-2 fastball to Prince Fielder, then all Jose Mijares had to do was shake Joe Mauer off, or call him out to the mound.But once he threw that pitch, Mijares should have taken responsibility for it after Fielder ripped it to right field for a go-ahead double, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

“Every player’s got to be accountable, and Mija knows that,” Gardenhire said. “If you have the ball in your hand as a pitcher, and a catcher’s calling something you don’t want to throw, the one rule of this game is that you don’t have to throw it, because you have the ball.”

Gardenhire met with Mijares and Mauer before Saturday’s game, and the Twins also had a team meeting three hours before the first pitch to “clear the air.”

While the lefty reliever did not say anything his manager had not already said Friday night, Gardenhire noted that there was a difference between the manager questioning the pitch selection and the pitcher doing the same.”I can say those things, and I would’ve liked to see a breaking ball, but a pitcher can’t,” Gardenhire said. “If he doesn’t want to throw something, don’t throw it. That’s totally on your own shoulders and that’s being accountable.”

Regardless of who was at fault in the at-bat, Gardenhire made it clear that he did not want the issue to linger within the Twins’ clubhouse.

For that reason, he called the quick pregame meeting.

Though he also would have preferred to see a slider in that situation, Gardenhire said that if Mijares had better executed the pitch and put it where Mauer wanted it, the whole situation may have been avoided.

“I think Joe said it best,” Gardenhire said. “Yes he did call for a fastball, but he did not call a fastball down the middle.”

Gardenhire talks out struggles with Nishioka

MILWAUKEE — Not wanting his shortstop to get frustrated over his struggles at the plate, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire called Tsuyoshi Nishioka into his office after Friday night’s 4-3 loss to talk.

“He needs to keep swinging and get more at-bats,” Gardenhire said. “He’ll get better as we go along. I just don’t want him to get too frustrated, bottle it all up, and start worrying about things that he doesn’t need to worry about.”

Nishioka has batted just .160 with two doubles and two RBIs in eight games since returning from the disabled list.

He’s also struck out eight times in 25 at-bats over that stretch, after missing 60 games due to a fractured left fibula.

“He’s back here, he’s been hurt a long time, and I want him to get out there and relax, get some swings in, and I told him that last night,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t want him to get too emotionally caught up, worrying about not doing his job.”

Valencia, Braun recall time at Miami

MILWAUKEE — As teammates at the University of Miami, Danny Valencia and Ryan Braun once each hit three-run home runs in the same game.

On Friday night, it was Valencia who put a three-run homer into the seats at Miller Park, giving the Twins a 3-2 lead at the time. Braun said that he wasn’t too thrilled about watching Valencia’s home-run ball go over the left-field fence.

“That’s never fun, you never want to see guys have success against us, but against everybody else I definitely root for him,” Braun said. “I obviously wish him the best, and not just him, but everybody else that we played with as well. It’s pretty cool to see quite a few guys in the Major Leagues and having a lot of success.”

In 2005, Valencia and Braun manned the corner infield spots for the Miami Hurricanes during their sophomore and junior seasons, respectively. They were part of a Miami team that also featured Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay and Indians closer Chris Perez.

During that season, Valencia and Braun combined for 153 hits, 24 home runs and 139 RBIs for Miami, which lost in the Super Regional round to a Nebraska team that featured Alex Gordon at third base and Brian Duensing out of the bullpen.

The two still remain in touch with each other and many other Miami teammates.

“Yeah, of course, man,” Braun said. “I follow everybody, keep in touch with everybody. He’s doing well, I’m happy for him and it’s good to see. Especially because obviously he wasn’t a high Draft pick, so the fact that he’s made it is that much more impressive. And he’s gotten an opportunity, really taken advantage of it, and done really well.”

During batting practice on Friday before the series kicked off, the two took a few minutes to catch up.

They only spent the one season together before Braun was drafted fifth overall by the Brewers, but Valencia said he enjoyed playing with Braun and all the talented players on that Miami team.

“I looked up to him because he was just a really, really talented player,” Valencia said. “He was a good guy, he’s hilarious and he’s fun to be around. He keeps everything loose, makes you feel comfortable.”

Slowey tosses two frames in Class A

MILWAUKEE — Twins head trainer Rick McWane gave quick updates on Saturday on right-hander Kevin Slowey and outfielders Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

Slowey threw two innings on Saturday night in Class A Advanced, allowing two runs on three hits with four strikeouts.

Kubel ran the bases on Saturday and will do the same on Sunday before joining the Twins for a full workout on Monday at Target Field.

Span had another good day on Saturday and will be reevaluated when the Twins return home.

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

Twins notebook, 6/14

June 14, 2011 Comments off

Morneau tries to hit, placed on disabled list

MINNEAPOLIS — First baseman Justin Morneau is the latest in a long list of Twins to hit the disabled list this season.

Morneau was placed on the 15-day DL with a left wrist strain and will have his wrist immobilized for 10 days, Twins general manager Bill Smith said after Tuesday’s rainout. The move is retroactive to June 10.

“We’re looking at this as a short-term event, but we will put him on the DL,” Smith said. “Rest, and they believe it will come around in that 10 days, plus a few days to get his range of motion back.”

The Twins will make an additional roster move before Wednesday night’s game to replace Morneau on the 25-man roster.

Morneau, who has not played since Thursday to rest his sore left wrist, had the MRI on his wrist looked at by a specialist, Dr. Thomas Varecka, who recommended a cortisone shot. After getting the cortisone shot on Sunday, Morneau hit in the cage on Tuesday and didn’t feel good.

“He came in today, said he felt pretty good, went down to the cage, took about 20 swings, and it wasn’t as good as we had hoped,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said.

After the session in the cage did not go well, Morneau was sent to see Varecka, and that meeting resulted in the decision to put Morneau on the DL.

Nishioka may rejoin Twins on Wednesday

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s not official yet, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka could be back in a Twins uniform as soon as Wednesday.

Nishioka played nine innings at shortstop on Tuesday in Toledo for Triple-A Rochester, and is scheduled to travel back to the Twins Cities on Wednesday.

“What we want to do is let the doctors and trainers see him,” said Twins general manager Bill Smith. “They haven’t seen him in a long time. He’s been down in Fort Myers for a long time. So we want to let them see him before we do anything further.”

Nishioka went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, and batted .333 in three games with the Red Wings, going 4-for-12 with a double, an RBI and a walk. In four games with Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Nishioka also was 4-for-12, with a double, an RBI, two walks and a stolen base.

Before fracturing his left fibula against the Yankees on April 7 in New York, Nishioka played six games at second base for the Twins. He batted .208/.269/.519 with a double, two RBIs, two walks and a stolen base.

Since going down to Fort Myers, Nishioka has been working on turning double plays at both shortstop and second base, even spending some time with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

“Molitor did a lot of work with him,” Gardenhire said. “I talked with Moli today, and he said he actually moved around really good both sides. He’s moving around very well at shortstop, arm strength’s a lot better than Moli saw in Spring Training.”

Gardenhire and the Twins have said they plan to move Nishioka to shortstop when he returns, in part due to the nature of his leg injury. At shortstop, Nishioka will have a better view of the runner coming at him during a double play, rather than facing away from the runner while awaiting the throw as the second baseman.

In addition to working on his play at shortstop, second base and around the bag on double plays, Molitor gave Nishioka some advice on recovering from injuries, having dealt with a few during his career himself.

Molitor said he really didn’t get to see much of Nishioka before the injury, but he does like what has seen during his rehab work in continuing to adjust to the differences between baseball in Japan and the Major Leagues.

“He’s done very, very well,” Molitor said. “How well he’ll do as he comes back from not only a disappointing injury but also acclimating to Major League Baseball, I couldn’t tell you. But I do believe that, in time, he’s going to be a very good player.”

Twins notebook 6/12

June 12, 2011 Comments off

Thome to start rehab work on Monday

MINNEAPOLIS — Eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, designated hitter Jim Thome will begin rehab work in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday.

Thome, sidelined since June 2 with a strained left quadriceps, has made progress over the weekend since receiving an epidural on Friday. Before the Twins’ series finale with the Rangers on Sunday, Thome even took some swings in the cage.

“I’m feeling good,” Thome said. “I swung and had no issues today. Everything went good.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire said before Sunday’s game that if everything went well, the club would send Thome to Florida.

“He said he would really like to get to Florida and start getting in that heat and start doing his rehab down there and get back to swinging,” Gardenhire said. “He likes that program down there because it’s controlled pretty well, but he can get a lot of work in because there are so many bodies down there that are willing to try to do something.”

Until he begins working in Fort Myers, though, Thome won’t know whether he’ll be ready to return to the Twins when he becomes eligible on Thursday.

Even if it takes Thome a few extra days to return, the Twins should have a pretty formidable lineup when he does, with Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka expected back from the 60-day DL in the next week.

“I think it’s exciting, yeah,” Thome said. “Especially with as hard as those guys have worked down there, Nishi and Joe, and the rest of the guys here obviously have done a great job lately. So it’s kind of exciting to see where our team could go.”

Morneau, others making progress in recovery

MINNEAPOLIS — Hand specialist Dr. Thomas Varecka has not yet seen the MRI taken of Justin Morneau’s left wrist, but that should not delay Morneau’s scheduled return.

The MRI showed some fluid but did not reveal any structural damage. Morneau may receive a cortisone shot at some point, but he is expected back in the lineup on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday and Sunday and the Twins’ off-day on Monday.

“[Varecka] probably will see it [on Monday],” said Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

McWane also gave updates on the rest of the injured Twins, though there are no major changes for any of them.

Relievers Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Joe Nathan (elbow soreness) continue to work in Fort Myers, Fla., at extended spring training. Slowey was scheduled to throw off a mound on Sunday, and Nathan is set to face hitters on Monday.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fratured left fibula) and Glen Perkins (strained oblique) are with Triple-A Rochester in Toledo, with Perkins having thrown a scoreless first inning on Saturday, allowing one hit. Nishioka was scheduled to play on Sunday, and Perkins will throw two innings on Tuesday night in Toledo.

Nishioka is expected to return sometime this week, and Perkins could be back soon as well.

Center fielder Denard Span, on the seven-day DL with a concussion, is “getting better,” McWane said.

Eligible to return on Tuesday, Jason Kubel continues to feel better every day.

“He’s still doing well hitting, [but] he’s still a little bit sore running around,” McWane said. “We’re just progressing him as he tolerates.”

Twins notebook, 6/12

June 12, 2011 Comments off

Thome to start rehab work on Monday

MINNEAPOLIS — Eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, designated hitter Jim Thome will begin rehab work in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday.

Thome, sidelined since June 2 with a strained left quadriceps, has made progress over the weekend since receiving an epidural on Friday. Before the Twins’ series finale with the Rangers on Sunday, Thome even took some swings in the cage.

“I’m feeling good,” Thome said. “I swung and had no issues today. Everything went good.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire said before Sunday’s game that if everything went well, the club would send Thome to Florida.

“He said he would really like to get to Florida and start getting in that heat and start doing his rehab down there and get back to swinging,” Gardenhire said. “He likes that program down there because it’s controlled pretty well, but he can get a lot of work in because there are so many bodies down there that are willing to try to do something.”

Until he begins working in Fort Myers, though, Thome won’t know whether he’ll be ready to return to the Twins when he becomes eligible on Thursday.

Even if it takes Thome a few extra days to return, the Twins should have a pretty formidable lineup when he does, with Joe Mauer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka expected back from the 60-day DL in the next week.

“I think it’s exciting, yeah,” Thome said. “Especially with as hard as those guys have worked down there, Nishi and Joe, and the rest of the guys here obviously have done a great job lately. So it’s kind of exciting to see where our team could go.”

Morneau, others making progress in recovery

MINNEAPOLIS — Hand specialist Dr. Thomas Varecka has not yet seen the MRI taken of Justin Morneau’s left wrist, but that should not delay Morneau’s scheduled return.

The MRI showed some fluid but did not reveal any structural damage. Morneau may receive a cortisone shot at some point, but he is expected back in the lineup on Tuesday after sitting out Saturday and Sunday and the Twins’ off-day on Monday.

“[Varecka] probably will see it [on Monday],” said Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

McWane also gave updates on the rest of the injured Twins, though there are no major changes for any of them.

Relievers Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) and Joe Nathan (elbow soreness) continue to work in Fort Myers, Fla., at extended spring training. Slowey was scheduled to throw off a mound on Sunday, and Nathan is set to face hitters on Monday.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fratured left fibula) and Glen Perkins (strained oblique) are with Triple-A Rochester in Toledo, with Perkins having thrown a scoreless first inning on Saturday, allowing one hit. Nishioka was scheduled to play on Sunday, and Perkins will throw two innings on Tuesday night in Toledo.

Nishioka is expected to return sometime this week, and Perkins could be back soon as well.

Center fielder Denard Span, on the seven-day DL with a concussion, is “getting better,” McWane said.

Eligible to return on Tuesday, Jason Kubel continues to feel better every day.

“He’s still doing well hitting, [but] he’s still a little bit sore running around,” McWane said. “We’re just progressing him as he tolerates.”

Twins notebook, 6/11

June 11, 2011 Comments off

Perry inducted into Twins Hall of Fame

MINNEAPOLIS — One of only three Cy Young Award winners in Twins history, right-hander Jim Perry was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Perry, the 1970 Cy Young Award winner, was honored in an on-field pregame ceremony before the Twins played the Rangers at Target Field.

“I’ve been really looking forward to a day like today,” Perry said. “It’s great to be with the group, the other Minnesota Hall of Famers.

“Minnesota, my family really, they still call it home up here.”

Past inductees joining Perry for the ceremony included Rick Aguilera, Gary Gaetti, Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven.

A teammate and rookie during Perry’s Cy Young season, Blyleven introduced Perry before his induction speech. Perry said after the ceremony he planned to be in New York on July 24th for Blyleven’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“He still calls me ‘Dad’ and he calls my wife, ‘Mom,'” Perry said of Blyleven. “That’s the way Bert is all the time.

“I was here in October, I said, ‘You’re not in the Hall of Fame yet, but when they come up in January, you’ll be on that and I’m going to be there when you’re inducted.'”

After Oliva and Carew unveiled Perry’s plaque, Perry tossed a ceremonial first pitch to his former teammate and manager, Frank Quilici.

The ceremony also honored the deceased members of the Twins Hall of Fame, including Harmon Killebrew, who recently passed after batting esophageal cancer. Perry said Killebrew was the first person to greet him when he arrived in Minnesota back in 1963.

“I really missed having Harmon, I thought Harmon would be here,” Perry said. “The last time I saw him, he was doing pretty good, but that changed real quick.”

Perry, 75, is the older brother of 72-year-old Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. Between the two of them, the Perry brothers won 529 games and three Cy Young Awards, as Gaylord won the honor in 1972 with the Indians and in ’78 with the Padres.

The Perry brothers are the second-winningest brother combination in baseball history behind Joe and Phil Niekro, who had 539 victories between them.

Nishioka moves up to Triple-A Rochester

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka moved a step closer on Saturday to returning to the big league club, joining Triple-A Rochester on the road in Toledo.

Nishioka flew from Fort Myers to Toledo in the morning and was expected to be in the Red Wings’ lineup on Saturday night, according to Twins head trainer Rick McWane.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before Saturday’s game that he was happy to hear Nishioka was headed to Triple-A.

“I talked with him on the phone, told him what we’d like him to do, and he had no problem with that,” Gardenhire said. “He’s excited to go up in a new place, a new venue, and get after it.”

In four games at Fort Myers, Nishioka batted .333, collecting four hits in 12 at-bats, including a double and an RBI. Nishioka also stole a base, walked twice and struck out twice.

As he moves from Class A to Triple-A, Nishioka will face much better competition, while also dealing with an increase in fans and media that will better prepare him for a return to the Major Leagues.

If everything goes as planned, Nishioka should make his return to the Twins during their current homestand.

“It’s a big move when we have to do something like that,” Gardenhire said. “But that’s what we want. We want him to get some swings against some [Triple-A] pitching. He should be able to join us by midweek.”