Tag:The Push Stars
Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:33 pm
 

Now at second: Nishioka's translator?

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins will take the art of importing a Japanese free agent to a unique level when infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka runs through Minnesota's first full-squad workout of the spring on Wednesday.

As Nishioka and Alexi Casilla familiarize themselves with each other this spring, manager Ron Gardenhire says he intends to have Nishioka's translator stationed in the infield during drills.

"Once the games start, it will get more entertaining," Gardenhire joked.

The purpose of keeping the translator close by, even if it means getting caked with infield dirt, is very simple.

"I want Nishi to communicate with the other players if any of them have any questions," Gardenhire said.

The general thinking is that Casilla will be the Twins' shortstop this season and that Nishioka will play second base. But the Twins say right now that no determination has been made and that that could flip. Nishioka, the Twins' first Asian-born player and the 2010 MVP of the Nippon League, was a shortstop in Japan.

Gardenhire said the early-spring plan is to work each man out at each position and go from there.

But the main thing early, he said, is to make sure Nishioka is comfortable.

"We had a little conversation today," Gardenhire said. "I want to make sure he understands we know he can play and that he doesn't have anything to prove. He's an All-Star. He's won a batting title. We know he can play."

Nishioka has been in town for several days but has been working out on the Twins' minor-league fields. He made an appearance in the big-league clubhouse early Tuesday morning but did not participate in the workouts.

"I was looking forward to participating in practice starting the 23rd with the first workout, so I wanted to be in the best shape possible," said Nishioka, who will wear No. 1. "I'm more excited than nervous."

Nishioka said he spoke with former big leaguer Kaz Matsui before joining the Twins "but it was brief, just good luck, nothing specific." He also said, when asked about adjusting to a new life in the majors, "I would like to learn English and try and adjust to that."

Meanwhile, Gardenhire is hard at work on his Japanese. At least, certain words and phrases.

He was leafing through a small pocket book called "Survival Japanese" on Tuesday morning and has already downloaded and printed a handful of pages' worth of Japenese baseball terms.

How's his Japanese coming?

"I have it in my book, not in my vocabulary," Gardenhire said, before joking, "If there's a nice-looking chick, I may ask him about her."

Seriously, Gardenhire said, "it's hard for me to put it in one word. But I want to do it in one sentence. He's going to understand me before it's all done. We're going to get it."

Sunblock Day? Lots of fog this morning. But that gave way to sun, 83 degrees and smiles. Pass the sunblock.

Likes: Always good to see former Twins manager Tom Kelly in uniform and assisting in drills here. ... Likewise, same with Hall of Famer Al Kaline at Detroit's camp in Lakeland. ... Oh my goodness, now Twins catcher Joe Mauer is a spokesman for Head & Shoulders Shampoo. Well lathered, Mauer. ... Nino's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant remains on top of its game in both the chicken parmesan and pizza departments. I can attest to both over the past few nights.

Dislikes: What they ought to do to the scumbag who poisoned the trees at Auburn is turn the environmentalists loose on him ... on Arbor Day.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I've been burning down all my yesterdays
"I can't stick around to see the smoke
"'Cause we’re on our way, and we don’t care where
"There’s no time to sit around and mope"

-- The Push Stars, Minnesota

Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:07 pm
 

Hardy hopes to solve mystery in Minnesota

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- You like fresh starts in the spring? Well come visit for a moment with shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose tale is a classic in the genre:

Hardy, part of Milwaukee's young wrecking crew, falls off the cliff in 2009.

His 24 homers in 2008 melt to 11 in '09.

His 74 RBI in '08 shrink to 47 in '09.

He scuffles so much the Brewers ship him back to Triple-A Nashville. Then, looking to trim their payroll this winter, they ship him to Minnesota for center fielder Carlos Gomez.

So here Hardy is, new Twins uniform, blank slate, hopes as high as his production once was.

Credit for some of those hopes goes to Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra and special spring training instructor (and, of course, Hall of Famer) Rod Carew.

"I've made some pretty big changes, and for the better," Hardy says. "Some things I've known I've needed to do, and I just haven't been doing them."

What Vavra and Carew have succeeded (so far) in doing with Hardy is this: Last year, he fell into a bad habit of twisting his upper body back toward the catcher too much as he was loading his swing. What Vavra suggested, and Carew has helped fine tune, is getting Hardy's hands and back elbow in a spot that makes it hard for him to rotate his upper body so extravagantly.

Now, instead of turning back too far before he launches his swing forward, Hardy says he's coming straight to the ball in a shorter, more compact manner.

"It's a new start, and I'm excited about that," Hardy says.

Especially alarming were two things: His deteriorating power, and his declining effectiveness against lefty pitchers. He's never hit right-handers particularly well, but he hit only .169 against lefties in '09 (as opposed to a .299 career average against lefties through '08).

Can Hardy bounce back?

Did Vavra unlock an eternal mystery?

Will Carew's suggestions put Hardy back on track?

For now, the smile is back, and that's a start.

"I'm going to have fun. Last year, I was miserable. For some reason last year, I felt more pressure on myself. If I was 2-for-4 or 1-for-3, I was miserable because it just wasn't good enough.

"I'd come to the park in a bad mood. It was a long, frustrating year for me."

Sunblock Day? Slow start, but it was in the 70s by day's end Sunday and it is supposed to remain in the 70s for the rest of the week. Let the burning begin.

Likes: Nice conversation the other day with former Twins manager Tom Kelly, in camp helping as an instructor. The other day, he was on a half-field working with the infield defense and with the pitchers in their fielding practice. He's doing well and roves throughout the Twins' minor-league system during the summer, evaluating and teaching. As for spring camp, he'll be here through the end. "Gardy wanted me to come for the whole spring," T.K. says of manager Ron Gardenhire, as if it came as somewhat of a surprise. ... Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor also are in uniform as guest instructors. Between those three and T.K., it's an impressive sight. ... Nice conversation also with former outfielder and first baseman Dmitri Young, who is retired and was visiting his brother, Twins' outfielder Delmon. Dmitri says he's retired with no regrets, and his top priority now is being a father to his three kids. He brought his oldest, 12-year-old Owen, who served as the Twins' batboy on Saturday. ... Nino's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in Fort Myers remains as delicious as ever, and it was good to hear that the owner of the joint, Graziano, was able to get away to his native Italy for three weeks last summer. More impressive, he spent the time with some friends making food and feeding people following last April's earthquake centered in Abruzzo mountain region of Italy.

Dislikes: Aw, I'll have left Florida by the time Wilco plays in Clearwater on March 23. I've had a heck of a time catching up to them over the past year. Would

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I feel alright, it's a Minnesota night
"You've got nothing left to show me but your smile
"Stars so bright on this Minnesota night
"Can we cut the conversation for a little while?"

-- The Push Stars, Minnesota

 
 
 
 
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