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March 3, 2009 at 10:26 PM

Tui taking his swings

So with my regular beat being Husky sports, I couldn’t resist checking in on Matt Tuiasosopo while I’m filling in on the Mariner gig for a few days.
Here’s the story I wrote as a result of an interview with Tuiasosopo on Monday.
As noted in the story, Tuiasosopo said he is down to 227 pounds this spring after playing last year at 240 and he thinks it’s making a big difference in his play.
Tuiasosopo said the weight loss came after a talk with trainer Rick Griffin after last season.
“Every year I tried to get bigger and stronger and last year I got too big and lost a little speed,” he said. Now, having dropped some weight, he said “I feel good, quick, fast and just as strong.”
He also began prepping for this season pretty early, arriving in Peoria on Jan. 18 and working out regularly with some of the other dozen or so players who were here at the same time such as Bryan Lahair and Rob Johnson.
As noted in the story, Tuiasosopo is 6-11 to start the spring. And while it’s admittedly really, really early, Tuiasosopo feels good about it, and others with the team think there also may be something long-lasting to his early uprising.
Tuiasosopo said he feels a lot more confident after having gotten his feet wet in the Majors last September and that while he only hit .159, he did enough to make him feel he can have success — such as hitting a double off Andy Pettitte for his first hit.
“It helped a lot,” he said. “I was able to just get up there and get my feet wet. I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel overmatched at all. I realized that I could play up here when I face some of the bigger name pitchers, Pettitte, some of the other guys. I realized ‘hey, I can hit up here against some of those guys.’ So this spring when I see the pitchers that I’m facing it doesn’t really mean anything where the first couple spring trainings it was ‘oh, I’m facing this guy.’ Now it’s like ‘I’m okay.’ So it definitely helped a lot.”
The big questions for Tuiasosopo may be whether he can hit breaking balls and can he hit for enough power to play third base. There’s evidence that the latter may be coming around, however. Tuiasosopo hit a career-high 13 homers last year and already has one this spring.
Tacoma manager Darren Brown notes that Tuiasosopo has made pretty steady progress through the farm system and that it’s promising that last year at Class AAA was one of the best seasons he has had.
“We know what kind of athlete he is (referring to his football past),” Brown said. “He’s a really good athlete. And sometimes good athletes figure things out. Last year I think was just a learning period for him early and once things clicked for him a little bit he was getting good pitches to hit and not missing them.
“He’s worked hard this winter to come in ready to go in February, which I think is paying off right now. Watching him offensively and defensively, he’s really come a long ways since the start of last year, and a lot of it is putting in the work and getting it done.”
As for power, Brown says “you see signs of that. We saw signs of if last year. We see batting practice every day, we know it’s there. It’s just a matter of time before it gets into the game.Last year was the most home runs he hit, so hopefully it’s just a normal progression and it keeps going from there. We’ve seen it before (in BP) and now it’s starting to creep into the game a little bit. So I like what I’m seeing so far.”
Tuiasosopo said he knows about the need for more power, but this spring is trying not to worry about it.
“When I tried to show power in the past, that’s when I don’t do well and struggle,” he said. “So I’m just trying to show them quality at-bats and put good swings on the ball and drive the ball hard all over the field.”

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