CLEVELAND - The Twins were playing their best baseball of the season before arriving at Progressive Field this week. Then Tsuyoshi Nishioka joined them and played about as poorly as a major league second baseman can play.
Nishioka's erratic, often laughable defense could have derailed them Monday, but their offense overpowered the struggling Indians in a 14-3 rout. On Tuesday, Nishioka played better defensively and delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly in a 7-5 victory.
But Wednesday the situation reached a new low, as Nishioka went hitless again and made three defensive plays that cost the Twins four runs in a 6-2 defeat, which stopped Cleveland's 11-game losing streak.
Asked how hard it is to be patient with Nishioka when the rest of the team is playing so well, Gardenhire said, "He's part of the ballclub. He had a rough day out there. ... We brought him up here to see what he can do. Today wasn't a good day."
Gardenhire cut off the next question about Nishioka, saying, "Today wasn't a good day. Let's leave it at that. I'm not talking about it anymore."
Nishioka went 0-for-12 in the series and was charged with three errors, not counting other misplays, such as the ball he lost in the sun Wednesday, which was scored a double for Shelley Duncan.
The Twins also saw moments when Nishioka was out of position on cutoffs and relays, late getting to bases he was supposed to cover, etc.
Nishioka, 28, only had time to speak to the Japanese media after Wednesday's game because he had a flight to catch. He was heading back to Rochester, N.Y., to pack his belongings for Minnesota, since his promotion Sunday had come while the Class AAA team was in Toledo, Ohio.
In words translated from Japanese regarding Duncan's double, Nishioka said, "I lost the ball in the sun. I couldn't do anything about that."
After the sun play, Nishioka made an inaccurate throw to home plate, enabling pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera to score. Again, Nishioka wasn't charged with an error, but a good throw gets the runner.
His only official error Wednesday came when he made a diving stop of Brent Lillibridge's grounder up the middle but used his glove to flip the ball to no-man's land, trying to start a double play. Gardenhire said Nishioka needed to get at least one out.
"If I make the play, I could get a double play, so there is a very fine line between a good and bad play," Nishioka said. "I did my best to make a play, so I'm not worried too much. I will try to focus on the next game now, and I will do my best if I have a chance to play next time."
It's uncertain if Nishioka will still be in the majors when the Twins return to action Friday at home against Tampa Bay. General Manager Terry Ryan, who followed the series on television, declined to address the topic with reporters.
During the broadcast, Twins analyst Bert Blyleven said, "Hey, I know the Twins paid some money for [Nishioka], but in my opinion, he's had a tough time at the major league level and I think the last three games have shown that.
"I'm not afraid to say my feelings. I just feel that Nishioka is overmatched up here. ... Maybe I'm speaking for the pitching staff. You want this guy to succeed, but it just has not happened. And I think this three-game series is a good indication of what the Twins maybe have to do."
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org