Hiroyuki Nakajima could begin the season in the minors

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When the Athletics signed Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year, $6.5 million contract over the winter, the assumption was that he would open the season as the team’s starting shortstop. However, after a rough introduction to the majors, it’s increasingly likely that it’s not going to happen. In fact, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that he could begin the season in the minor leagues.

The buzz in the clubhouse today was that the A’s are seriously considering having Hiro Nakajima open the season at Triple-A Sacramento.

The Japanese shortstop was out of the lineup today and isn’t in Tuesday’s’s tentative lineup, either. A’s management had been hoping Nakajima would feel comfortable with the transition to big-league baseball by now, but it hasn’t happened.

Nakajima is batting just .150 (6-for-40) with one double, one RBI and an 11/4 K/BB ratio during Cactus League play and is hitless over his last eight games. Shea hears that the Athletics want the 30-year-old “in a groove” before he plays his first regular season game in the major leagues and feel that Triple-A could provide him the opportunity to get comfortable. For what it’s worth, Nakajima homered in a minor league exhibition game on Saturday during which he also played some second base.

If Nakajima isn’t included on the A’s Opening Day roster, Jed Lowrie would likely start at shortstop. Scott Sizemore could get an opportunity to start at second base, though Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales could also be in the mix for playing time.

Miguel Sano gained weight this offseason

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Not all players coming in to spring training are in The Best Shapes of Their Lives. Some have put on a few pounds, such as Miguel Sano, notes Twins GM Thad Levine:

Sano has been given medical clearance to engage in all baseball workouts with his teammates, his surgically reinforced left shin now completely healed, though the Twins intend to lighten his schedule to prevent any new injuries.

They’d like to lighten something else, too: His “generous carriage,” as General Manager Thad Levine delicately put it last week. Sano’s conditioning understandably lags, after a winter largely spent incapacitated by the surgery.

Sano’s conditioning has often been a topic of conversation among the members of the Minnesota press corps, though not always in good faith. For example, last year when Sano injured his shin by fouling a ball off of it, one member of the The Fourth Estate found a way to make a column out of blaming the freak injury on Sano’s conditioning. At least in this instance his colleague is correctly noting that the poor conditioning is a result of the injury and not the cause.

Still, it’s just another issue facing Sano this spring. He’s out of shape, coming off of an injury, and — not that he’s due any sympathy for it — he’s facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him late last year.

So this spring we’ll be seeing more of Sano, it seems. At least until that time we’ll be seeing less of him.