Tsuyoshi Nishioka won't need surgery

Updated: April 9, 2011, 3:32 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka dressed for the Minnesota Twins' home opener just like the rest of his teammates in their blue caps, throwback white pinstriped jerseys and black cleats.

The glaring difference, as Nishioka took the field for Friday's pregame introductions (he got the loudest ovation of anyone, including the beloved Joe Mauer), was the crutches the second baseman needed to move from the dugout to the base line.

The bad news for Nishioka was that he couldn't play, much less walk, in his first game at Target Field because he broke his left leg the day before.

The good news for him and his new team was that their heralded acquisition and Japanese batting champion doesn't need a cast or surgery on the fibula he fractured in New York from a double-play takeout slide by Yankees slugger Nick Swisher.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said the best-case scenario is for Nishioka to be ready to play again in four to six weeks.

"As soon as he gets the soreness out he'll start doing workouts on a bicycle and probably help us out a little bit better that way," Gardenhire said after Minnesota's 2-1 win over the Oakland Athletics. "Probably a little less time, we hope. It's going to be a process of letting him go through it."

The Twins signed Nishioka to a three-year, $9.25 million contract in December after bidding $5.329 million to his Japanese team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, for the right to negotiate with him.

Through his interpreter, Nishioka said he was disappointed at being unable to play.

"I wanted to show fans not the impression of the Nishioka on crutches but the Nishioka with a bat," he said.

Sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a blue, hooded sweatshirt, white workout pants and flip-flops, Nishioka said four separate times that he wanted to be on the field "as soon as possible."

The other positive part from Nishioka's day was the opportunity to shake the hand of Athletics slugger Hideki Matsui, one of the first Japanese stars to break through in the major leagues. Nishioka took his hat off and respectfully bowed several times in front of him.

"It's a great honor for me to meet him," he said.

Nishioka's injury sparked discussion and analysis of the contrast between Japanese and American baseball, particularly regarding the intensity and frequency of takeout slides like the one that injured him. Nishioka, though, said he made the "best play" he could and downplayed the difference.

"Depending on the score in Japan, those plays happen as it happened yesterday," he said. "Maybe I could've avoided it and not thrown if the score was a bigger lead or a different score, but I feel that I did my best play out there and that's the result of it. I feel bad of getting injured, but that's the best play I showed out there."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE