Nishioka plays with Japan on his mind

  • Updated: March 12, 2011 - 5:24 AM
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Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka heard the coaches instruction during drills from his interpreter Ryo Shinkawa.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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FORT MYERS, FLA. - Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka doesn't read the papers or watch television in the morning, so he didn't realize his native Japan had been rocked by earthquakes and a tsunami until he arrived at Hammond Stadium on Friday to concerned teammates.

Nishioka then contacted his wife, Naoko, in Tokyo by e-mail to make sure everything and everyone was OK.

"I was able to get a hold of my wife right after,'' Nishioka said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "She mentioned how severe the situation is and we talked of safety for people back home.''

Japanese players across the league spent the day checking on loved ones in the wake of the disaster. Nishioka said he considered not playing in Friday's exhibition game against Boston but decided to remain in the starting lineup and went 1-for-2 with a walk.

"I understand that I'm in an occupation where I can relay dreams and hope and energy back to Japan,'' he said. "I wanted to be on the field and think about people back home and go all out on the field and give some of that back home.''

No. 7 watch

Gardenhire was asked how close is Joe Mauer to catching in the bullpen, which needs to happen before he appears in a spring training game.

"This much,'' he said as he spread out his hands longer than shoulder width. "You can write that.''

The Twins suddenly have become mum on injury news, so the only way to know if Mauer is getting close to playing in a spring training game is to hang out by the bullpen and wait for Mauer to show up wearing the tools of ignorance.

Etc.

• Gardenhire noted how Nishioka and Alexi Casilla battled Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon before drawing walks in the three-run fifth inning. "Both of them laid off some tough pitches,'' he said.

• Lefthander Dusty Hughes threw a scoreless inning and hasn't given up a run in five innings.

• Outfielder Joe Benson will miss a few days because of a quad strain.

• Outfielder Rene Tosoni was given Friday off because of general soreness.

• Lefthander Brian Duensing gave up two runs on five hits over three innings but said he threw more fastballs than he normally would as he worked on locating the pitch.

On deck

Twins righthander Carl Pavano will make his fourth appearance of spring training when he starts Saturday against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla. Denard Span, Delmon Young and Luke Hughes are among position players on the trip. Righthander Jake Westbrook will start for the Cardinals. First pitch is at 12:05 p.m.

LA VELLE E. NEAL III

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