- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s long-delayed debut in Minnesota has arrived. This time, he’ll play a different part.

The Twins reinstated Nishioka from the 60-day disabled list before Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox. Though Nishioka wasn’t in the lineup, he was available to pinch hit or pinch run and manager Ron Gardenhire said he’ll start at shortstop in the series finale Thursday afternoon.

Nishioka played in only six games before breaking his lower left leg April 8, while trying to turn a double play. He was at second base then, but he switched spots when his minor league rehabilitation assignment began.

“I felt really comfortable playing shortstop, so I told Gardy that I am comfortable at any position,” Nishioka said through his translator.

The manager’s preference is shortstop, so Alexi Casilla will move to second base. Gardenhire held off on determining where they’ll hit in the order. Nishioka batted second before he was hurt, and Casilla has been in that slot lately.

The Pacific League batting champion in Japan last year, Nishioka signed with the Twins for this season but has yet to play at Target Field. He was followed by a half-dozen cameras everywhere he went before the game, including a jog on the field during early batting practice to shake hands with teammates he hadn’t seen in two months or so.

“He’s excited. You can tell that, and his English has gotten better too,” Gardenhire said, adding: “That’s enjoyable to have him back out here. That’s what we were hoping to see a long time ago, and unfortunately he got hurt.”

Nishioka took first baseman Justin Morneau’s place on the active 25-man roster. Morneau was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained left wrist. Left-handed reliever Dusty Hughes was taken off the 40-man roster to make room for Nishioka there, and Hughes will remain with Triple-A Rochester.

Nishioka said the rehab was “old” and “repetitive” at times, but he said he used the chance to play for the first time in front of the Minnesota fans as motivation.

“I think it will be a very special moment for me,” Nishioka said, through his translator.

He worked with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor at times in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins have their minor league headquarters, on his footwork and positioning on double plays. Gardenhire said heard glowing reports about Nishioka’s performance in the minors, that he was “flying all over the place” on the field. The 26-year-old batted .333 in 24 at-bats between Class A Fort Myers and Rochester.

Gardenhire’s son, Toby, is the second baseman at Rochester.

“He saw him and said, ‘Dad, you’re going to like what you see,’” the elder Gardenhire said. “I trust my son.”



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