It might surprise you to learn that Matt Tuiasosopo is only 24 years old. He feels like he should be 26 or 28 or something, and that's probably because he's beginning his eighth year as a member of the organization. Still, despite his relative youth and background as a prospect, he's posted a .540 OPS over his limited time in the big leagues with pretty mediocre defense, and at this point he doesn't seem to figure much in the team's big plans.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't figure at all, and Bob Condotta reported an interesting bit late yesterday evening:
But in what looms as a potential make-or-break season for the player ... thehave asked Tuiasosopo to focus for the rest of the spring on left field and first base.
Tui, of course, has never been known for his defense, but he has been known for his versatility. That's the weird thing about defense; it's bad if you can't really play one position, but it's better if you can't really play many positions. Matt Tuiasosopo has played poor defense at many positions, and so he's been able to list versatility as a strength.
And now, at least for the time being, he's being asked to focus on first and left, and nothing around the rest of the infield. On the surface, that would seem to push him into a corner and limit his chances even further, but I'm not so sure.
The way I see it, the Mariners are going to run with a four-man bench. One of those bench guys will be a catcher - either Josh Bard or Adam Moore. One of those bench guys will be an infielder - probably Adam Kennedy. One of those bench guys will be an outfielder - probably Milton Bradley, or, in the event that Bradley beats out Michael Saunders in the left field competition, probably Ryan Langerhans or Gabe Gross.
That leaves one spot. With Ryan, Wilson, Kennedy, and Figgins, the M's will be covered at 2B/SS/3B. They'll be covered at catcher and they'll be covered in center. So what they'll probably want from the last guy is someone who can cover the corners and bring a bit of a bat. And that's where Tui could step in.
The job won't be handed to him. He'll be competing against a handful of others, possibly or probably including Matt Mangini, Mike Carp, Josh Wilson, and maybe Luis Rodriguez and the outfielders. But none of those guys is a standout favorite, giving Tui a real shot - particularly since Zduriencik seems to prefer a righty. This is his opportunity to show the team that he can swing the bat while serving as depth where the roster could use some depth.
He'll want to do that. He does still have an option left, meaning this isn't necessarily his last chance. But he's getting there, and if he reports to Tacoma, he runs the risk of getting buried. Based on the way things look right now, Tui has a job in front of him. He just has to earn it.