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August 18, 2010 at 8:36 PM

Mariners manager Daren Brown agrees Matt Tuiasosopo needs more at-bats

Well, you’ve got to hand it to Daren Brown. He didn’t waffle any tonight when I put the questions to him about the importance of rewarding young players who respond to challenges.
That’s what Matt Tuiasosopo did tonight with his second straight three-run homer and a game-saving catch in the eighth inning. Brown said Tuesday night that Tuiasosopo has to show more consistency at this level and he responded with a second straight gem of a game.
\Now what? How important is it, I asked Brown, for this to be a two-way street? Where if you challenge a player and he responds, you reward the behavior? Sort of like giving a dog a cookie for doing backflips. Or something like that. The catch Tuiasosopo made in left field may have been tougher than that, given his size.
“I think it’s important,” he said. “There are different philosophies on things, but I do like when a kid goes out and…it wasn’t just getting a couple of hits for Tui last night. It was a three-run homer and a double in the gap. It was two big hits. And I thought, confidence-wise for him, I put him back out there again tonight and he showed up and hits a big three-run homer to come right back after they’d scored two.
“So, I think it shows a little confidence in him. But at the same time, we’ve got a few young kids that we need to see. Hopefully, they’ll all answer the challenge and do something like Tui’s done the last two nights.”
Brown had told us moments earlier, when asked whether he was prepared to keep putting Tuiasosopo out there: “We’ve got two young kids here in (Michael) Saunders and Tui and I feel like both of them need at-bats. We need to see what both of them can bring to the table on an everyday basis. It’s good to see what we’re seeing, but at the same time, both of them need at-bats.”
Fair enough. But that said, is Brown prepared to play Tuiasosopo at other positions to get him those at-bats once Saunders returns to left field?
Photo Credit: AP

“Yeah, I’m not against putting him at third base, second base, first base, wherever. He can play anywhere. We’ve got some guys in those positions that are also playing well, too, so we’ll see how that goes. But I’ve liked what I’ve seen the last two nights with him.”
I’d submit, once again, that none of the guys at the other positions — and some are playing well, yes — have hit two homers and driven in seven runs the last two games. So, unless their names are actually carved on the bases themselves, a team that could still be en route to 100 losses once it starts playing winning clubs again can afford to rest some regulars at this point.
But that’s just me. I don’t run the Mariners.
I asked Tuiasosopo whether he’d ever made a catch like that and he told me not since his sophomore year at Woodinville High School. There was a similar play in the minors, but he couldn’t hold the ball.
Like I thought, former football player Tuiasosopo said he didn’t even feel his body hit the ground. The thud in his glove was enough, he said.
Tuiasosopo wasn’t worrying about answering Brown’s challenge to him when he gave him a second straight day in the lineup. He’s been trying to play more relaxed and have fun out there and who can argue with the results?
“I think in the past, I’ve gone wih that approach where ‘I’ve got to do something, it’s the only game I’ve got’,” he said. “And it hasn’t been a good way to approach things.”
Nope, this one is certainly better.
Tuiasosopo said he’ll come in Friday, look at the lineup and worry deal with whatever’s on there. He had some doubts about whether he’d be in there tonight, even with last night’s exploits.
“A little bit,” he said. “I wasn’t sure. Just knowing there was a righty (on the mound). And I’d heard them say (on Tuesday) that they were just giving Saunders a day (off).”
And really, that has to stop. The way this season’s gone, with this the M’s first prolonged winning stretch in two or three months, it really is about seeing which young players can play and who cannot. I have my doubts about whether Tuiasosopo will fit here long-term but that will be proven one way or another once he actually plays. There’s nothing worse than condemning a guy, then not using him after he does something in order to realize some type of self-fulfilling prophecy.
The guy just earned another game.
Securing playing time for vets who’ve already shown they can play, or who won’t be around in 2011, has to be secondary. They all had their shot when this season still meant something. Not saying they all have to be benched. That would be counter-productive. But neither should a guy with seven RBI in two games have to take a seat in Game No. 3. No one on the 2010 has been that good that they’ve earned an automatic lineup spot to keep a guy like that sidelined.
Even if it was a one-or-two-time fluke. Even if it was more about a poor opponent. Maybe it wasn’t.
All I know is, based on the evidence, Tuiasosopo has been good enough to earn a spot in Friday’s lineup. There is no counter argument.



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