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Originally published April 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 10, 2007 at 9:08 PM

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The travails of Tuiasosopo

Matt Tuiasosopo talks freely about last year, because he is confident that it is in the past. It's what motivated him to hire a personal...

Seattle Times staff

M's farm system


Tacoma Rainiers,

12th year

Level of play: Class AAA, Pacific Coast League

Manager: Daren Brown

Opening day: Thursday, at Sacramento

West Tenn Jaxx

(Jackson, Tenn.),

first year

Level of play: Class AA, Southern League

Manager: Eddie Rodriguez

Opening day: Thursday, at Montgomery

High Desert Mavericks

(Adelanto, Calif.),

first year

Level of play: Class A, California League

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Opening day: Thursday, vs. Inland Empire

Wisconsin

Timber Rattlers

(Appleton), 15th year

Level of play: Class A, Midwest League

Manager: Jim Horner

Opening day: Thursday, at Peoria, Ill.

Everett AquaSox,

13th year

Level of play: Short-season Class A, Northwest League

Manager: Mike Tosar

Opening day: June 19, vs. Yakima

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Matt Tuiasosopo talks freely about last year, because he is confident that it is in the past.

It's what motivated him to hire a personal trainer and to work harder than he ever has in the offseason.

Failure can do that to you.

"That was definitely on my mind, that .150 batting average," said Tuiasosopo, a Woodinville High School graduate and former Washington football recruit. "It was a constant motivation."

It wasn't quite as bad as he remembered. But after hitting .306 in 232 at-bats at Class A Inland Empire, Tuiasosopo was promoted to Class AA San Antonio, where he hit .185. He followed with a .167 average in the Arizona Fall League.

Tuiasosopo knows this is an important season. Perhaps no one in the organization, though, needs a fresh start as much Tuiasosopo. The better competition at Class AA led to some of his struggles, but part of the problem was within.

M's farm system


Tacoma Rainiers,

12th year

Level of play: Class AAA, Pacific Coast League

Manager: Daren Brown

Opening day: Thursday, at Sacramento

West Tenn Jaxx

(Jackson, Tenn.),

first year

Level of play: Class AA, Southern League

Manager: Eddie Rodriguez

Opening day: Thursday, at Montgomery

High Desert Mavericks

(Adelanto, Calif.),

first year

Level of play: Class A, California League

Manager: Scott Steinmann

Opening day: Thursday, vs. Inland Empire

Wisconsin

Timber Rattlers

(Appleton), 15th year

Level of play: Class A, Midwest League

Manager: Jim Horner

Opening day: Thursday, at Peoria, Ill.

Everett AquaSox,

13th year

Level of play: Short-season Class A, Northwest League

Manager: Mike Tosar

Opening day: June 19, vs. Yakima

"The pitchers had livelier arms and more command of their pitches, but I started to have some mechanical problems with my swing," he said. "It got to the point where I was trying something new every day. Eventually, I didn't know what to do. I had never experienced failure to that extent in my life. It was a very hard time for me."

He said he continued to play hard, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

"I lost my confidence," he said. "I became timid."

The Mariners say what Tuiasosopo went through was not unexpected.

"If you look at any player, at some point in their career, they hit a roadblock," said Frank Mattox, the Mariners' director of player development. "The key is how do you react when you hit that roadblock. Matt is a very hard worker and he has a great makeup.

Failing in athletics was new for Tuiasosopo. A high-school quarterback, he was Washington's top football recruit in 2004. He was expected to do many of the things his older brother Marques had done, which included a Rose Bowl victory after the 2000 season.

Then the Mariners drafted Tuiasosopo with their top pick in 2004, in the third round. The club offered a record $2.29 million signing bonus for a third-round pick, and Tuiasosopo embarked on a pro baseball career that was going according to plan until last summer.

"I had never failed like that before, but I was lucky that I had a lot of support," he said. "My coaches, my teammates and particularly my family, were there for me. They helped me keep the faith. And it wasn't like I wasn't trying. I was working hard, and for a day or two things would be OK, but then they would go bad again."

It was also a tough year in the field. After struggling at shortstop the first part of the season, he was moved to third base.

"I started getting the idea that they wanted me to move when I was playing third base in spring training," he said. "I am feeling comfortable at third. I had always envisioned staying as a shortstop, but my goal is to get to the big leagues as quickly as I can, whether that's at shortstop or third base."

Tuiasosopo was a non-roster invitee to spring training, and he hit .250 in eight at-bats during Cactus League games. He also was encouraged by how he performed in workouts and in the batting cage.

Tuiasosopo likely will begin this season back at Class AA, with the team's new affiliate, the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx in Jackson, Tenn. Tuiasosopo can't wait to get going, and to put last year's numbers to rest.

"I just want to play," he said. "I am really looking forward to getting back out there."

Players to watch
Prospects who are poised to do big things:
Pos. Player Comment
C Jeff Clement No. 3 overall pick in 2005 could reach the big leagues this year
SS Carlos Triunfel The 17-year-old received a $1.3 million signing bonus
2B Michael Garciaparra A first-round pick in 2001, he went from possible bust back to prospect
OF Mike Wilson After a slow start as a pro, the second-round pick from 2001 is on a power surge
1B Bryan LaHair MVP of the farm system in 2006 was a 39th-round pick in 2002
LHP Ryan Feierabend Was better in Seattle in September than he was at Class AA San Antonio
OF Wladimir Balentien Power-hitting prospect still strikes out too much
LHP Travis Blackley Still trying to make it back to Seattle after major shoulder surgery
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith Strong year in 2006 meant promotion to 40-man roster
RHP Joseph Woerman Born in Edmonds, struck out 85 in 64-1/3 innings in Class A

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