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Minor League Report: Matt Tuiasosopo

Minor League Report: Matt Tuiasosopo

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo learned a valuable lesson during his first Cactus League at-bat: don't try to be a hero.

"I got caught up in the situation, right there, and was trying to crush the ball, I really was," he said. "All I needed was to get a bloop single and that's the ballgame. I just needed to step back, relax and put the bat on the ball."

The Mariners' third-round choice out of Woodinville (Wash.) High School in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Tuiasosopo walked to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on second and third bases, two outs and the Cubs leading, 6-5.

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Cubs closer Bobby Howry turned up the intensity even more than he did while striking out the previous batter, Charlton Jimerson, and blew away Tuiasosopo, who swung hard on a high fastball. Game over.

"I tried to do too much," Tuiasosopo acknowledged.

Two days later, in a game against the Brewers in Phoenix, Tuiasosopo came to bat in the sixth inning, the bases loaded, the Mariners trailing by two runs, and he ripped a game-tying single into center field to highlight Seattle's three-run rally.

It is called, in baseball vernacular, "staying within yourself", and that's what the 21-year-old former baseball/football star did in that at-bat.

While he realizes that his fourth Spring Training camp with the Mariners will end before the club heads north to open the regular season, Tuiasosopo knows progress is being made.

"Every year, I am getting a little closer," he said. "I'm starting to feel real comfortable at third base, now that I've had a year under my belt there."

A shortstop in high school, where he also quarterbacked the football team and was offered a scholarship at the University of Washington, Tuiasosopo was moved to third base two years ago. He spent the 2007 season with Double-A West Tennessee, batting .260 with nine home runs and 57 RBIs.

His fourth pro season continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .293 in 23 games and was named AFL Player of the Week the first week of November. He currently is rated, by Baseball America, as the Mariners' 10th-best prospect.

Tuiasosopo is hoping to be assigned to Triple-A Tacoma out of Spring Training. That would be close to home, allowing his family to see more games. His dad, Manu, played football for UCLA and in the National Football League, including three years with the Seahawks, and his older brother, Marcus, starred at UW.

"I hope Tacoma, but you never know," Tuiasosopo said. "You can think and hope all you want, but you never know until they tell you. I felt good about my year last year. Hopefully, I'll have a good camp and they'll find a place for me at Tacoma."

Until then, he'll be watching Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre's every move.

"He's the best third baseman in the game," Tuiasosopo said of Beltre. "The things he does are unbelievable. I like to watch him as much as I can during the games, everything he does. I am very fortunate to have someone ahead of me that I can watch and learn from."

Spring Training
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On the move: Add Adam Moore's name to the list of promising catchers in the organization. He has done well in his first Major League camp, catching the final three innings in a game against the Brewers on March 6.

Whatever pitch he called worked as the Brewers went hitless over the final five innings and he contributed a double to Seattle's Cactus League victory.

"He did a nice job catching, he hit the ball well," Mariners manager John McLaren said. "I was very impressed. He's got a lot of upside and we're really high on this kid."

Moore, a sixth-round Draft choice in 2006, batted .307 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs for High Desert (Class A California League) last season. He is third, however, on the organizational catching depth chart -- behind Jeff Clement and Rob Johnson.

Eye-opener: During a "B" game against the Padres, first-round Draft choice Phillippe Aumont faced professional hitters for the first time in his career and it couldn't have gone any better.

He held the Padres to an infield single while retiring three of the four batters he faced.

"I was real smooth, felt good, could put my ball wherever I wanted and got ground balls," the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder said. "That's my game. I'm not a big strikeout guy. I got one, and that's a plus, but I'm a ground-ball guy."

Class of '07: The Minor League camp is going full-speed and Aumont is the only signed member of the class not in camp. Well, not this camp. He is busy on the other side of the complex, but probably will be rejoining his colleagues sometime this week when the first round of roster cuts are made.

What they're saying: "I love to go out there and play catch with the catcher and make the hitters look silly."
-- Aumont, after pitching one scoreless inning in a "B" game against the Padres

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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