CLEVELAND -- After spending the last four months at Triple-A Rochester, Tsuyoshi Nishioka made his return with the Twins on Monday night, starting at second base and batting seventh against the Indians.
It was Nishioka's first game back in the Majors since Sept. 9 of last season and his first big league start at second base since April 7, 2011, when he broke his left leg on a hard slide from Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher while trying to turn a double play.
Nishioka, who hit .245 with a .309 on-base percentage and .301 slugging percentage in 84 games in Triple-A, said he's eager to prove he belongs in the big leagues after struggling last year. He hit just .226/.278/.249 with five doubles and 19 RBIs in 68 games last season after signing a three-year deal worth $9.25 million.
"I think I was able to maintain my motivation down there," Nishioka said through translator Ryo Shinkawa. "And just because I came back, it's not a point I should be excited about, but it's a new start and the start of the season for me."
Nishioka had been playing better recently with the Red Wings, as he hit .298 in 27 games in July. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he heard good things about his defense at second base as well.
So Gardenhire said he'll stick with Nishioka at second and see how he fares in his second chance with the Twins. He added that Nishioka likely won't be the one sent down once third baseman Trevor Plouffe returns from the disabled list, which could come as soon as Friday.
"All the reports have been that he's playing fantastic baseball and having quality at-bats and playing solid defense," Gardenhire said. "So I'm excited to see if he can carry that right into here and do what we had planned him doing from the get-go."
Pavano's first rehab start Tuesday at Class A
CLEVELAND -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire gave a rundown on Monday on a few of Minnesota's players on the disabled list.
Right-hander Carl Pavano, on the disabled list since June 4 with rotator cuff weakness, is set to make his first rehab start with Class A Fort Myers on Tuesday. He's scheduled to pitch two innings.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, on the DL retroactive to July 21 with a bruised right thumb, still hasn't swung a bat since Thursday. But there remains a chance he could return in time for Friday's game against the Rays at Target Field.
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak also played catch from 90 feet on Monday and reported no problems. He's on the DL retroactive to July 25 with a mild right rotator cuff strain.
And right-hander P.J. Walters is set to make a second rehab start with Triple-A Rochester on Thursday. Walters, on the DL since June 14 with right shoulder inflammation, tossed two perfect innings in his first rehab outing on Saturday.
Gardenhire may opt to demote slumping Dozier
CLEVELAND -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's looking to get more consistency from rookie Brian Dozier, who has been the club's everyday shortstop since being called up in early May.
Dozier has been in a slump recently, hitting just .211 with a .241 on-base percentage and .276 slugging percentage over his last 20 games dating back to July 16. The recent funk has the 25-year-old hitting .236/.267/.328 with five homers in 78 games this season.
It's caused Gardenhire to debate whether it's worth sending Dozier back down to Triple-A Rochester to get straightened out.
"It's always talked about," Gardenhire said. "What's talked about is what's right for him? If he continues to struggle offensively, he's not drawing walks, is it right to do? We talked about that at the All-Star break, and believe me, I've wondered myself. I don't have any intention of doing it right now, but that could change tomorrow. It really could."
Gardenhire also wants to see that consistency defensively as well, as Dozier leads American League shortstops with 15 errors.
Dozier, though, said he feels like he's getting more comfortable defensively and is confident his overall game will turn around.
"That's the biggest thing," Dozier said. "I know the hitting is going to turn around and all that stuff. I had a bad showing in the first half with defense. I'm not trying to make excuses. That's all me. But at the same time, I'm starting to feel more comfortable out there. So it's starting to feel a little bit better."