Nishioka to Stay with Tigers, Aims for First Half Return

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It was reported on the 14th that Hanshin infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (32), who is working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon, has reached an agreement to remain with the club in 2017. He aims to make a return to top squad action by the end of the season’s first half, reports indicate. On this day, he spent two hours in the Koshien clubhouse doing various rehabilitation exercises, and all appeared to be going well. For the time being, his goal is to be able to run at full speed at the team’s secondary spring training camp in Aki (Kochi) next February.

He lay prone on the field, unable to move, and some thought his playing career was done. It’s been 3 months now since that day (July 20 vs. Giants at Koshien) when he tore his left Achilles tendon while running the bases. A deal has apparently been made with Nishioka for next year, and he is showing signs of being able to make a triumphant return to the field.

He spent this day in the Koshien clubhouse, doing bike training and walking in the swimming pool – a two hour workout. Nishioka had little to say: “Got a long way to go. I’ll keep going, though,” while a team representative said, “It seems his rehabilitation process is coming along well.”

The season he signed with Hanshin, 2013, he played in 122 games, but he has been hampered with injuries that have kept him out of the lineup every season since. Still, the club wishes to keep him aboard next year. In fact, two days after the Achilles injury, club spokesman Tanimoto said, “He injured himself while playing, and we want to move forward in a positive manner concerning his future with the club.” Surely this gave Nishioka the nudge he needed to aim for a complete recovery.

Encouraged by those words, Nishioka underwent surgery to reattach the tendon on the 26th. No doubt his ¥108 million contract will take a large cut next year, but he looks to do whatever it takes to don the pinstripes once again.

Nishioka, who started his rehab workouts on August 5th at Naruohama, said, “Ever since I got hurt, the club has supported me and fans have been encouraging me as well. I want to put that uniform on again not for myself, but for everyone who has shown me support through this whole thing. That’s my sole motivation.”

Starting with just upper body rehab work, Nishioka is currently doing leg muscle strengthening exercises and weight training. He will have his heel looked at later this month at the hospital, and if the chief doctor gives him permission, he will ramp up his workouts even more.

Nishioka reportedly told manager Tomoaki Kanemoto that he would make sure he would be at spring training camp in February and running at full strength. Club management has said, “We know the nature of that kind of injury and won’t rush him back too quickly. But it looks like he could be ready to play again in 6 months or so.” So with some rehab work on the farm team, it is entirely possible that he could be back with the top squad at the end of interleague play towards the end of June.

His rehab work has gone so well thus far that he has given his intention to be at the regular spring training sessions in Aki (Kochi) and does not wish to stay behind in Hyogo with other players who may be recovering from injuries. Three months after the injury that threatened to end his career, Nishioka is walking a stunning road to recovery.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.