Twins send Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Triple-A with two years and $6.25 million left on contract

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After watching Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit and field terribly for 68 games last season and look even worse this spring the Twins announced that they’re sending him to Triple-A with two years and $6.25 million remaining on his contract.

Toss in the $3 million he made last season and the $5.25 million they paid for his exclusive negotiating rights from Japan and Nishioka is a $14.5 million bust who may never make it back to the majors at age 27. And he was truly that awful, hitting .226 with zero homers and a .527 OPS while being overmatched at both second base and shortstop.

In theory this gives him an opportunity to get his career back on track against lesser competition and with less of a spotlight on his performance, but that will only help in the long run if Nishioka is a major-league player and … to say the jury is still out on that doesn’t give the jurors much credit for seeing the obvious.

What makes the decision to invest $14 million and a starting job in Nishioka last offseason even worse is that the Twins dumped J.J. Hardy to make room for him in the budget and on the field. And then Hardy, who was traded to Baltimore for a pair of mediocre minor-league relievers, smacked 30 homers for the Orioles and signed a three-year, $22 million extension.

And now Nishioka will be the highest-paid player–and most likely nowhere near the best player–in the International League.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.