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Tuiasosopo taking advantage of WBC '17

Journeyman's spring output heats up Braves' bench battle
MLB.com @mlbbowman

JUPITER, Fla. -- While it might make for a nice feel-good story, it is never an encouraging sign for a team to begin contemplating giving an Opening Day roster spot to a veteran who is not part of their Major League camp.

But given the uncertainty regarding what currently has the potential to be a weak bench, the Braves have had to at least start thinking about Matt Tuiasosopo, a 30-year-old journeyman who has taken advantage of the chances he's had this past week to be called over from Minor League camp to play in some Grapefruit League games.

JUPITER, Fla. -- While it might make for a nice feel-good story, it is never an encouraging sign for a team to begin contemplating giving an Opening Day roster spot to a veteran who is not part of their Major League camp.

But given the uncertainty regarding what currently has the potential to be a weak bench, the Braves have had to at least start thinking about Matt Tuiasosopo, a 30-year-old journeyman who has taken advantage of the chances he's had this past week to be called over from Minor League camp to play in some Grapefruit League games.

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"If this guy gets going, he's a threat and an option off the bench," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Stranger things have happened with these situations. Who knows? He's going to keep coming over [from Minor League camp] and we're going to play him. We need him with Freddie Freeman [playing in the World Baseball Classic]."

As the Braves look to add some power potential to their bench, Tuiasosopo caught their attention on Friday when his solo shot off Zack Wheeler gave him a home run in three consecutive plate appearances. But a trio of longballs during the second week of March does not trump the reality that he has hit .206 with a .641 OPS in the 404 big league plate appearances he's totaled over 13 professional seasons.

Video: Snitker on Braves building off solid finish from 2016

So while Tuiasosopo might at least now be on the radar, the Braves have to continue actively evaluating how to fill at least two spots on what will be a four-man bench if they stick with the plan to go with an eight-man bullpen. The only current locks for the bench are backup catcher Kurt Suzuki and Jace Peterson, whose value rests on his ability to play each of the infield and outfield spots.

Recent reports indicate the Braves have shown interest in free agent outfielder Angel Pagan. But this seems to be a highly unlikely match, as Pagan is seeking far more than the Braves are willing to offer.

Chase d'Arnaud came to camp with a legitimate chance to claim one of those bench spots, but his candidacy has been weakened as he's missed most of the past two weeks battling the flu and bronchitis. d'Arnaud's absence has opened the door for Johan Camargo, a talented defender who has steadily improved his offensive potential over the past year.

If the Braves stick with their internal options to fill out the bench with a backup outfielder, they would seemingly choose Emilio Bonifacio over Micah Johnson, who still looks somewhat uncomfortable as he attempts to make the transition from infielder to outfielder.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Matt Tuiasosopo