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