Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was blunt on Thursday in how he assessed Tsuyoshi Nishioka's first three games back in the majors.
"He had one game where he played reasonably well, and the other two were a disaster," Ryan said. "OK, so now it's up to me and [manager Ron Gardenhire]. We'll make that decision, and we've got to first figure out what's going on with [Trevor] Plouffe, and then we'll go from there."
Ryan said Nishioka will remain on the major league roster for Friday's game against Tampa Bay, in part because Plouffe won't be ready to return from the disabled list.
Plouffe has made progress with his bruised right thumb, and the plan is to have him take batting practice Friday. Ryan said there is a good chance Plouffe will have to go on a minor league rehab assignment, since the third baseman has been out since July 20.
At Class AAA Rochester, one potential replacement for Nishioka, Pedro Florimon, has an injured wrist, and another, Eduardo Escobar, is a 23-year-old starting infield prospect who the Twins say needs regular playing time.
So for now, Nishioka, 28, is staying put, but Ryan made it clear that Gardenhire is under no obligation to keep him in the starting lineup.
"That's up to Gardy," Ryan said. "If he wants to play him, he plays him. If he wants to sit him, he sits him."
Nishioka is in the second year of a three-year, $9.25 million contract. The Twins have about $14.5 million invested in him, including the $5.3 million posting fee they paid to the Chiba Lotte Marines.
He hit .226 in 68 games for the Twins last year and got promoted Sunday after batting .245 at Rochester.
Starting all three games in Cleveland at second base this week, Nishioka went 0-for-12 and made three errors along with numerous other misplays, as the Twins went 2-1. Nishioka hit some hard line drives and delivered the go-ahead sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of Tuesday's victory.
"You aren't going to sit a guy just because he's 0-for-12," Ryan said. "It's some of the unforced mistakes that he makes, and not going after a ball he lost in the sun."
Ryan mentioned some of Nishioka's other baffling moments and said he understands why fans are frustrated.
"The game is different up here, and he seems to be not as relaxed as when he plays in Triple-A, and that's understandable," Ryan said. "And he knows the expectations because of the dollars we gave him."
The Twins tried to make Nishioka comfortable last season, but they never saw the same player who won a batting title and multiple Golden Glove awards in Japan. In Rochester, the staff saw improvement over the past two months and recommended Nishioka for the promotion.
"We brought him up here to see if he could help the club," Ryan said. "And unfortunately, two of the first three games, it wasn't working too well."
2009 first-round draft pick Kyle Gibson will throw about 50 pitches for Class A Fort Myers on Sunday in in his next step recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. The righthander posted a 2.45 ERA with four walks and 16 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
"He's even throwing a little harder than he did before he was hurt," Twins minor league director Jim Rantz said.
Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.