La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins, Nishioka exchange contract proposals

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 6, 2010 - 9:13 PM

The Twins on Monday spoke to Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council about the player he represents, Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

``We've had some conversations,'' Twins GM Bill Smith said. ``Until we get him signed, The less said the better.''

Later, when asked if he planned to speak to Thurman again this week, Smith said: ``We'll let you know - but not when we're going to meet. The less said the better.''

Update: The Twins and Thurman exchanged several contract offers at various lengths on Monday. Indications are that a three-year deal is on the table for anywhere from $3-5 million a year.

Smith is really a nice guy but can be tough to get basic information from about certain player moves. I will point out that Smith did come through with with a few tidbits during his media huddle on Monday.

>>Nishioka could still play shortstop or second base, but that will be up to manager Ron Gardenhire to decide. One Japanese reporter here told me that a couple problems facing Japanese shortstops in coming here is that they play on many artificial fields and that they aren't taught the backhand much. That second problem makes it tough for them to throw out runners from the hole.

Smith says that both Nishioka and his wife do not speak any English. A Twins official who shall remain nameless told me recently that his wife did speak English. So I got some bad information.

Smith still suggests that the club could keep Nishioka, J.J. Hardy and Alexi Casilla in 2011. That would surprise me because they could move Hardy for help elsewhere.

For instance, if they keep talks alive with Pittsburgh, I wonder if this guy could be on their radar.

The Twins have until 11 p.m. on Dec, 26 to sign Nishioka.

>>When asked is the ship has sailed on Carl Pavano, Smith said: ``I don't think that ship has sailed.'' Tom O'Connell remains in touch with the Twins about Pavano (I think he was supposed to meet with assistant GM Rob Antony late today).

O'Connell and Pavano are in no hurry to sign. As soon as Cliff Lee finds a home. Pavano will be the best free agent left. They will wait.

But, if Pavano can't fetch a three-year offer (like Ted Lilly signed with the Dodgers). I wonder if the Twins would have a chance to keep him with a two-year deal?

>>Smith said that Justin Morneau remains on track to be ready for spring training after missing the second half of the season with a concussion.

``His doctor has told us repeatedly that he doesn't think he's going to have any troubles being ready for spring training,'' Smith said.

>>Heard that Joe Nathan has been shut down during throwing program as he rebounds from Tommy John surgery. There's a good reason:

``We backed off his throwing so he can start again after January 1 to build into the season,'' his agent, Dave Pepe said. ``The doctor didn't want him to build his arm strength up then shut it down then build it up again.

``He feels great. He's in great shape. His spirits are good and we'll see in January when he starts throwing in earnest..''

>>Other stuff

Said hello to former players Tom `Flash,' Gordon, Michael Tucker and Bobby Kielty. Kielty hasn't played since 2007 because of injuries but, at age 34, just played some winter ball in Puerto Rico and is trying to get  back into the game. He said he needed time to recover from injuries.

Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier are getting a lot of attention from teams. I don't think the Twins have a chance to bring back either one of them but was told if they had a choice of the two, it would be Guerrier.

Heard that the Twins are interested in Seattle reliever Sean White. Checking to make sure that's not an old rumor.

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