Friday, July 8, 2011

Nishioka's finding his comfort zone

When the Twins spent $14 million to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the offseason, there was a lot of speculation as to what type of player the Twins would get in this deal. Nishioka had shown his star power in Japan but other Japanese players have found struggles with their transition to the American-style of the game.

Nishioka's broken leg earlier in the season did not allow the Twins to get a good look at their Japanese prospect. It has now been 20 games since Nishioka returned from the DL and there have been signs that he is starting to feel more comfortable with the Twins. His defense has been improving and he looks vastly more comfortable at the plate.

The Twins coaching staff has been working closely with Nishioka in the last few weeks to get him more comfortable with his role on the team. Nishioka gives all the credit to the coaches for any success he has on the field. Joe Vavra, the Twins hitting coach, has worked with Nishioka in the batting cage to help him with his swing. Ron Gardenhire has also been working with Nishioka on the mental aspects of the game. All of these one-on-one sessions with the Twins coaches seem to be paying off for Nishioka.

There were some rough moments in the field and at the plate for Nishioka in the first half of the season. In the last two days Nishoka looks like a completely different player in the batter's box. Wednesday afternoon saw Nishioka get his first three hit game of his MLB career. On Thursday night, Nishioka found himself in the middle of the scoring action for the Twins. He had two hits, scored two runs, and drove-in another run.

Nishioka came to the Twins with multiple accolades for his defense in Japan. Those skills seemed to be lacking for different parts of the season. But some of his confidence on defense seems to be returning. There have been many tough plays made by Nishioka in the last week. His range has been outstanding but his arm can still be worrisome.

The one area of his defense that continues to need work is the fact that he seems to lack the ability to make a backhanded play. There have been multiple occasions that Nishioka will try and get around on a ball instead of making the easier play. Getting around on these balls seems cumbersome on the field and using a backhand would solve that issue.

It has been nice to see the confidence on the field from Mr. Nishioka as he plays out his rookie season with the Twins. But the team is going to continue to look for improvements as the season progresses. This is just the first step towards the player the Twins need Nishioka to be.


JimCrikket said...

I'm encouraged by Nishioka's play lately and hope he continues to improve.

I'm really not so concerned about the "inability to backhand thing" right now. With all the games they play on artificial surfaces in Japan and his less then cannon-like arm, it's not surprising that he's learned to field balls to his right in that manner. I think that even if he did start backhanding, he'd get less on his throws than he does by "circling" with the result being that it would take just about as long for the ball to get to 1B as it does now.

In any event, that's not something I'd make him change in mid season. Work on it in the offseason maybe.

MNTwinsGUFS said...

he made a nice backhanded play last night...many seem to forget that Nishi is in fact a rookie, and has played only what, 25 games here so far? There's obviously going to be an adjustment period in all facets of the game for him, looks like he's getting much closer to the finish line in that respect.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

I agree that he should work on the backhand in the offseason. It will be interesting to see if he sticks around the Twins complex in Florida for some of the winter. I'm sure he will want to spend a lot of time in Japan. The Twins will have to give him a checklist to work on.

He's improving and that's great to see!