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Monday April 4, 2011 3:58 pm

Tsuyoshi Nishioka trying to become the next Ichiro




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Tsuyoshi NishiokaEverybody knows the legend that is Ichiro Suzuki. As a 27-year-old in 2001, he made his debut for the Seattle Mariners and proceeded to define what it meant to be a Japanese-born athlete being successful in MLB. His career accolades already suggest he’s Hall of Fame material and this past weekend he became the career leader in hits for the Mariners. The search to find the next great Japanese player is on, yet less than a dozen position players have cracked the big leagues.

The latest is Tsuyoshi Nishioka, playing for the Minnesota Twins. Coming from the Nippon Professional league, he’s regarded as a top prospect for a 26-year-old. He is a two-time Japan Series Champion, five-time All-Star, two-time stolen base champion, three-time gold glove winner and has also led the league in batting, hits and slugging. The Twins took this list of accomplishments under advisement and worked out a three-year, $21 million deal with Nishioka. Unfortunately, his MLB debut hasn’t quite gone according to expectations.

In his three games played over the weekend, Nishioka recorded as many errors as he had hits – two of each, and actually struck out five times in 13 plate appearances. It wasn’t all bad news though. He walked twice, stole a base and did help to turn four double plays in the weekend series. Chances are though that Nishioka will find his groove and join the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span to lead the Twins’ offense to another postseason.

Three games is an extremely small sample size; hardly an indication of what he’s truly capable of. But with the ever-shrinking level of patience when it comes to experiments, this slump better not last too long. After suffering against the Toronto Blue Jays, Nishioka has to face the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics in his next seven games. His Opening Weekend series might have been beginning jitters, or it might not. What will be most interesting to see though is when the Twins get together with the Mariners in Seattle as the Japanese fan base may find its allegiances divided.

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