What’s a Tuiasosopo, and Does it Matter?


March 14, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila (13) congratulates shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo (68) for hitting a two run home run against the New York Mets in the spring training game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Two-ee-AH-so-so-poe. See, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Even if you aren’t a Tigers fan (or if you are and haven’t been paying attention the past week) the name may be familiar:

  • Manu Tuiasosopo was a #1 draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1979, played 8 seasons in the NFL, and won a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in 1985.
  • Marques Tuiasosopo was a 2nd round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2001 out of the University of Washington, after capping his collegiate career with a Rose Bowl victory over the Drew Brees-led Purdue Boilermakers. Marques was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1997, but pursued his athletic career on the gridiron instead of the diamond.
  • Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was the central figure in the recent Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo was signed by the Detroit Tigers last November after being released from the New York Mets . He spent 2004-11 toiling in the Seattle organization, appearing in just 71 big-league games over that time. Now 27 years old, Matt’s MLB stat line reads .176/.234/.306, 5 HR’s, 15 RBI and 70 K’s in 193 AB’s.

Matt is the son of Manu, brother of Marques (brother Zach was training-camp fodder for the Philadelphia Eagles in the mid-2000’s), and cousin of Ronaiah. He is also the current front-runner for the much-speculated-upon final spot on the Tigers bench breaking spring training.

Tuiasosopo has played 3B, SS, 2B, 1B, and LF during his brief time in the bigs. His minor league batting slash is a bit more respectable – .260/.355/.399, with 79 HR’s, and he is prone to hot streaks. Apparently he is on one of those streaks this spring, as he has drilled 4 HR’s while batting .327 – at an opportune time, as the Tigers are looking for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.

Will the longest of long-named longshots be on the plane to Minneapolis next weekend? These possibilities exist between now and the supposed final cut on Thursday:

  • Of the four positional player spots open on the bench, Brayan Pena is in at backup C; Ramon Santiago is in as it would cost the Tigers about $1.5 mil to cut him; Danny Worth has a minor-league option yet, so he is headed to Toledo; Quintin Berry unfortunately bats from the wrong side of the plate; and Don Kelly is Jim Leyland‘s security blanket.
  • That leaves Tuiasosopo and Kevin Russo as right-handed bats with the skills to occasionally spell left-fielder Andy Dirks vs. tough left-handed pitching. Russo has slightly less MLB experience but has produced decent numbers this spring – .306, 2 HR, 5 2B and 5 RBI. Only Leyland knows if he has demonstrated more capability than Tuiasosopo to fill that role as envisioned.
  • Dave Dombrowski still could make a move. Casper Wells, apparently odd-man-out in a crowded Mariners outfield, has recently been mentioned as a possibility to come back to Detroit.
  • Avisail Garcia could make the team, instead of starting the season at Toledo as is expected. Garcia didn’t look out of place in his cameo last fall; however, he is nursing a sore heel which likely won’t improve in what is likely to be arctic conditions the first two weeks of the regular season.

And does it really matter? The expectation is for Dirks to play most every day with the exception of tough left-handed starting pitching. My concern is the way Dirks plays reminds me of Steve Kemp – a player with a football mindset – very fun to watch, but prone to be nicked up. He has not played more than 125 games in a season throughout his professional career, so we can only hope he has put the nagging injuries behind him. If not, a platoon of Don Kelly and Matt Tuiasosopo in LF awaits.

In that scenario, we will quickly be struggling to roll a different multi-syllabic name off our tongues – Cas-tah-YA-nohs.