Tuiasosopo's hard work pays off with roster spot

Tuiasosopo's hard work pays off with roster spot

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Not only was Matt Tuiasosopo not among the hot names for the Tigers' fourth outfield spot going into camp, he wasn't even really a name for the job. He didn't start playing the outfield this spring until a couple weeks into the Grapefruit League season.

The first time the Tigers face a left-handed starting pitcher next week, there's a pretty good chance Tuiasosopo will be in left field. The way Tuiasosopo hit this spring, he earned it.

"Nobody knows how this is going to play out," manager Jim Leyland said, "but if there was ever a guy that came in and opened your eyes up and deserved a shot, the way he's performed and the way he has gone about his business, it's him. And I think you reward people like that."

The reward came Tuesday morning, when Leyland called the right-handed slugger into his office and gave him the news. Unless "some freak thing," as Leyland put it, happens to add a hitter to the roster, Tuiasosopo will be on the team.

At this point, Leyland said, the Tigers have nothing going on.

Thus, it'll be Tuiasosopo's third time on an Opening Day roster, having made it on the Mariners in 2009 and '10. Back then, though, he was a prospect. Here, the 26-year-old was a guy on a Minor League contract with an invite, a deal he first put into motion with an email he sent to Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski over the winter marketing himself for a deal.

"No one figured this would be the case," Tuiasosopo said. "I always believed that I could come here and always believed good things could happen. I thank God things have gone the way they've gone. I'm just very blessed and thankful.

"It's been a crazy spring. My wife gave birth to my first son [in February]. Now this."

Tuiasosopo entered Tuesday batting .327 (16-for-49) with six doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs in 27 games. Take away his 0-for-14 streak to begin the year while his young son Josiah was hospitalized, and he's on a 16-for-35 tear.

Tuiasosopo outlasted top prospect Nick Castellanos' hot start, and he beat out Rule 5 Draft pick Jeff Kobernus.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.