Thoughts: Nishioka as the #2 hitter
Gardy said today that he will bat Nishioka 2nd to start the 2011 season. I have not gotten a chance to see him play yet but from all reports it sounds like the Twins are impressed so far. Gardy was quoted today in saying: “I like Nishi up there,” Gardenhire said. “I feel really comfortable with him there. I like Alexi at the bottom. My preference is Alexi at the bottom. That turns the lineup really nice, with speed. You go 9-1-2, they can really fly. I like that.”
This move doesn’t suprise me at all. We may not know yet what we are going to get from Nishioka this season but why not give it a shot? Nishioka seems to be displaying a good amount of speed in Spring Training, I think the big thing is that it will take a lot of pressure off of Alexi Casilla.
It is no secret that Casilla has been given a couple of oppourtunities by the Twins. I feel that this is his last shot with the team to truley impress. In my opinion; Gardy wants to take as much pressure off of him as possible. In 2008, Cassilla was a very effective #2 hitter after being called up. In 2009 when he earned the starting job, he did very little to impress or show that 2008 wasn’t a fluke. He has shown he can do it in the past, but not as a full time starter. Actually, anytime Casilla has been given a starting job he hasn’t produceed much at the plate at all.
I am rooting for Casilla to do well this season, mostly because I don’t feel the Twins have that strong of options behind him. I think that Hughes would provide a great bat in the lineup but he has not shown the ability to stay healthy, also the fact that he doesn’t play SS regularly. Ploufee is another interesting option but last year showed he can be overmatched at times. I still think he can provide some insurance for the Twins, but would not be ready to step into a fulltime starting roll if needed. YET. I think for short periods of time either one of those bats could help the line up but any Twins fan knows that Gardy would most likely plug Matt Tolbert (I call him Punto Jr.) in a starting spot before either Hughes or Ploufee.
Nishioka as the two hitter in my opinion seems to be the right call. He has speed, good bat control and has proved at other levels that he can really hit the ball. The question is; will that translate into Major Leagues success? Time will only tell, all we as Twins fans can do is hope the 2010 Manager of the Year is right on this one.