LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – When Matt Tuiasosopo’s long fly ball off the Mets’ Zack Wheeler finally came down on the grass berm beyond the left-field fence Friday at Champion Stadium, the Braves journeyman had home runs in three consecutive plate appearances, including two late-innings homers that accounted for five runs Thursday against the Yankees.
But did Tuiasosopo have any better chance of making the Braves’ roster than he did before Thursday? Probably not, although manager Brian Snitker said “stranger things have happened” and indicated the corner outfielder-first baseman could at least be brought to the big leagues at some point in the season even if not on the opening-day roster.
He homered in the second inning against Wheeler, a former East Paulding High School standout, the only run allowed in two innings by Wheeler. The Braves also got homers from Brandon Phillips and Adonis Garcia in a 5-2 win.
The fact that the well-traveled Tuiasosopo, 30, signed a minor league contract with no invitation to spring training this year said something about his status, but those long home runs he’s hit the past two days are a reminder of why the Braves brought him back this year to have as depth at Triple-A.
And with the team still considering candidates for the final bench spot, his big right-handed bat gives him some value, even if his corner-outfield defense does not. He could be brought over from minor league camp for at least another couple of starts at first base while Freddie Freeman is away at the World Baseball Classic.
Tuaiasosopo had 11 home runs in 248 plate appearances (64 games) last season for Triple-A Gwinnett, and his three at-bats in three games for the Braves represented his first major league at-bats since 2013, when he hit .244 with seven homers and a .765 OPS in 191 PAs for the Detroit Tigers.
“I was all for getting him a couple of years ago,” Snitker said, “because he’d kill us in Triple-A when I was (Gwinnett manager), and I remember he played left field with Detroit one time when we were there. He’s a threat (to hit a home run). He can play first, he can play corner outfield positions. We called him up last year, so I said if this guy gets going, he’s an option. He’s a threat off the bench.
“So I don’t know. Stranger things have happened, quite honestly. Who knows? With Freddie gone we need him, and hopefully he makes the most of his opportunities.”
Freeman at Spring Training