Hiroyuki Nakajima arrived at spring training Tuesday with none of the media fanfare that greeted the highly touted Japanese shortstop a year ago. Called over from the A's minor league complex in the morning as a replacement for injured Addison Russell, Nakajima was a late-inning substitution against the Padres. Nakajima was projected to be the A's starting shortstop in 2013. Now, Nakajima, who never spent a day in the majors after signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract before last season, isn't even on the A's 40-man roster. The team says it hasn't given up on Nakajima. But A's manager Bob Melvin didn't paint a promising picture when asked the chances of the 31-year-old infielder reaching the majors this season. "There would probably have to be some injuries to guys we have here," Melvin said. "But who knows? Anything could happen in baseball, and I think he realizes that, and I think that's why he's here working as hard as he is and trying to get back to the big leagues." Nakajima played two innings at the end of Tuesday's 6-5 loss to San Diego. He didn't get an at-bat but was involved in two defensive plays. He covered second base on a double play and got taken out fairly hard and was unable to get off a good throw to first. He also had a line drive to his left glance off his glove for a hit. Nakajima says he understood his situation coming into this season but hopes to make a more significant impact this season. "I'm just going to play hard every day," Nakajima said through an interpreter. "Physically, I feel very good. I just want to get better results in the minor leagues this year and be able to get called up to the big leagues." There was some question whether Nakajima would return to the U.S. for another season given his status in the organization. "For him to come back and just be a minor leaguer this year, it's pretty impressive that he wants to do that," Melvin said. "I'm sure he could have gone back to Japan and played, but he wants to prove himself here again, and it's nice we're going to be able to bring him over, and he will get into (spring) games." Things changed quickly a year ago when Oakland acquired veteran infielder Jed Lowrie from Houston, and Nakajima's chances were further diminished when he suffered a hamstring injury in spring training.
Japanese infielder has uncertain place in A's organization
Oakland Tribune | Mar 12