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02/27/11 11:48 PM EST

Gardenhire impressed by Nishioka's debut

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka put on a solid defensive display at second base in his first Spring Training game with the Twins on Sunday night, but it was his speed that perhaps made the biggest impression on manager Ron Gardenhire.

In Nishioka's first at-bat of the game against Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, Nishioka hit a sharp groundout to shortstop Jose Iglesias. Yet the Twins new infielder made it a close play at first base after he blazed down the line.

"He hit a rocket," Gardenhire said. "It was a great swing, but I watched him run down the line. He can fly. I mean we know he can run, but he was flying. That's kind of what we like."

Nishioka showed off some glove work in the second inning, making two tough plays to both his left and his right in the inning. In all, Nishioka had five chances and handled all of them with relative ease.

"Nishi made, I think, three great plays out there, not easy plays," Gardenhire said. "The field was wet, the ball was skipping pretty good, and he made them look pretty doggone easy."

Twins starter Carl Pavano added that he was impressed with what he saw defensively from Nishioka and how he worked with his new double-play partner, Alexi Casilla, in their first official game together. And despite the language barrier that exists between them, Nishioka said that he feels that he and Casilla are adapting well to working together.

"I think it has transitioned very well," Nishioka said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "And even though we don't understand the language, we have eye contact and communicate."

Asked if he had any nerves for his first game with the Twins, Nishioka said he did not but added, "Once the starting lineup was called and my name was called on the screen, it was a very special moment for me."

Nishioka tallied his first hit in his third at-bat which came in the fifth inning when he blooped an RBI single into right field off his Japanese countryman, Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima.

"I asked him after two at bats if that's enough, and he said he'd like one more because he felt like he was brand new playing baseball, which I like," Gardenhire said. "I like that a lot. He was having some fun."

Gardenhire then joked, "We tried to get the ball for him, but we'll save that for the season."

The Twins skipper said that Nishioka will not play in Monday's game at Boston, but he added that he will continue to talk to his newest infielder to make sure that he's getting enough playing time. Although Nishioka is technically a rookie since this is his first season in the Major Leagues, Gardenhire said that he'll treat the infielder like he does most starting players -- which means playing him in more games at home in Spring Training and thus having to take fewer road trips.

"I know he's a rookie, but he's not a rookie; he's been playing baseball a long time," Gardenhire said. "So I'm going to treat him as a veteran. I'm going to call him a rookie, but I'm going to treat him as a veteran."

Pavano satisfied with first start of spring

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sunday night's Grapefruit League opener didn't provide the same type of adrenaline rush that Carl Pavano will get when he pitches on April 1 at Toronto in the Twins' regular-season opener.

But that didn't mean that Pavano took his two-inning outing any less seriously.

Pavano threw 26 pitches in his start against the Red Sox, allowing just one hit over his two scoreless innings. He struck out the first two batters he faced and his four other outs came on ground balls. He seemed pleased with his performance, considering that it was the first one of the spring.

"I was able to throw strikes," Pavano said. "My goal out there, me and [pitching coach Rick Anderson] talked before the game, was to use my fastball down and move it around the plate. I did that. I kept the ball on the ground."

This past week, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced that Pavano would be his Opening Day starter and Pavano was asked what getting the nod in that start for the Twins means to him.

"It's exciting," Pavano said. "You look at our staff and there are five guys on this staff that could do it. I'm pretty proud that they picked me. It's up to me to start this team off on the right foot. It's going to be an exciting year.

"You try not to make too much of it. It's still a start, it's still a game. I have to focus the same way. Nothing changes. But it's pretty exciting because it's the first start of the year and kind of gets the charge going."

This will be Pavano's second Opening Day start. His first came back in 2007 when he was a member of the Yankees, although the starter joked that it was an opportunity he received kind of by default.

"We had half of our staff go down with injuries and I was the only one standing," Pavano said. "Could you figure, in New York, I was the only one standing? Who would have thought that?"

Pavano's reference was of course to the four injury-plagued seasons that he spent with the Yankees from 2005-08. He made only two starts in '07, including one against the Twins, before he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow that ended his season.

Twins expect injured regulars to return soon

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Twins were without many of their lineup regulars for Sunday's first Spring Training game as a few players continue to recover from injuries. But manager Ron Gardenhire said he hopes to get a couple of those guys back in games by mid-week.

Outfielder Delmon Young is "moving around a lot better" following a case of turf toe in his big left toe and should be ready to play in the next few days, Gardenhire said.

Michael Cuddyer remains day-to-day with a wart on the ball of his left foot. Cuddyer started treatment with a new cream this weekend and Gardenhire said that he hopes Cuddyer will also be ready soon to see some game action.

But Gardenhire stressed that the biggest thing is getting the wart taken care of now and not having to worry about it once the regular season starts.

"I just don't want it to be something that lingers all the way into the season," Gardenhire said. "They told me if they have to take it off the foot, then he might miss a couple weeks. Honestly, they believe this will work. Cuddy is a tough guy and will go out there. I'd really just like to get this thing taken care of in spring and not have to deal with it during the season."

Gardenhire also said that Justin Morneau will see his doctor sometime in the coming days about the possibility of getting cleared to play in games. Morneau, who has not played in a game since suffering a concussion on July 7, has been working out with the team every day since arriving in Fort Myers and has been facing live pitching without reporting any problems.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.