Tsuyoshi Nishioka was one of the biggest busts in Twins history, but after providing little to no value for the first $11.3 million they invested in him, he gave them a $3.25 million gift Friday.
Nishioka asked for his unconditional release, and the Twins gladly accepted, saving the $3 million they owed him for 2013 and the $250,000 they would have spent to buy out his $4 million salary for 2014.
Nishioka, 28, who won the Japanese Pacific League batting title in 2010, is now a free agent. The Hanshin Tigers are reportedly interested in signing him to play shortstop next season.
"I would like to thank the Twins organization for helping me fulfill my dream of playing in Major League Baseball," Nishioka said in a statement. "I take full responsibility for my performance which was below my own expectations. .... I have no regrets and know that only through struggle can a person grow stronger."
The Twins paid a $5.3 million posting fee to the Chiba Lotte Marines to secure Nishioka's rights in December 2010, then signed him to a three-year, $9.25 million contract with an option for 2014.
Nishioka batted .226 with a .503 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) and committed 12 errors in 68 games for the Twins last season. He broke his left fibula on a takeout slide by Nick Swisher in the season's sixth game, and the Twins hoped Nishioka might rebound this year with his leg back to full strength.
But early in spring training, the Twins sent Nishioka to Class AAA Rochester. They gave him another major league chance in early August, but he went 0-for-12 and committed two more errors in three games in Cleveland before getting demoted again.
"I think we made a good thing out of a tough situation," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "He wants to play back in Japan, it looks like. And certainly, financially, it got us out from underneath."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire acknowledged that Josh Willingham could be finished for the season because of a sprained left shoulder.
"You definitely don't want it going into the offseason with a shoulder problem," Gardenhire said.
Willingham, 33, injured the shoulder when he jumped into the left-field wall, trying to catch a home run from Eric Chavez on Monday. Willingham is batting .260 with 35 homers and 110 RBI.
Deduno to miss last start
Samuel Deduno won't make Tuesday's start in Toronto because of left eye irritation and is likely finished pitching for the season, Ryan said. It sounds like the Twins will pick between Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak to start in his place.
Deduno, 29, went 6-5 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts.
"He wants to pitch; we all know that," Gardenhire said. "But you can't have a guy on the mound who can't see the ball and has blurry vision."
• With Gardenhire pitching during early batting practice, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love launched a few home runs into the left-field seats at Target Field.
• Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar left Friday's game in the eighth inning after being hit with a pitch in the left elbow. X-rays were negative, but he will undergo more tests Saturday.
Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this notebook.