Clint Frazier wasn’t looking for the attention he got early in this rebooted spring training. The 25-year-old Yankee outfielder wanted a quiet training camp off the field after a tumultuous 2019 regular season. Instead, his simple decision to keep himself, his family and his teammates healthy by wearing a mask put him right in the middle of a political debate in the country.
Saturday night, Frazier made the statement he wanted to make. He smacked a two-run home off Mets right-hander Rick Porcello in the fourth inning of the Yankees’ 9-3 win in an exhibition game at Citi Field.
And just to be clear for all the people who called Frazier a “sheep,” he hit the moonshot to left field for two runs while wearing a gaiter covering his nose and mouth.
“He’s embraced that and you know he’s been really playing well here these last few days and I feel like when he first got here he was a little out of whack and then I feel like the last week the quality of his at bats have really ticked up, he’s gotten into a lot of deep counts,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Same again tonight and obviously, he really clipped one all the while you know, it’s been important to him to have the mask or the gaiter on during the game.
“And obviously it’s not affecting him.:
While Frazier said he did not care about the backlash he received for wearing the mask as baseball tries to pull off an unprecedented season in the midst of a pandemic, he certainly did need to make a statement during training camp.
When baseball shut down four months ago, it was a lock Frazier was going to make the Yankees Opening Day roster just because of numbers. At the time, Aaron Judge (fractured rib), Aaron Hicks (Tommy John surgery rehab) and Giancarlo Stanton (strained calf) were all expected to be on the injured list for the March 26 opener in Baltimore.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the game for nearly four months though, it allowed them all to heal and all three are projected to now be in the Opening Day lineup when the Yankees take on the Nationals in Washington, D.C. Thursday. With Mike Tauchman having established himself as an excellent defensive outfielder who added some speed and the Yankees seeing the corner outfield spot as a way to get Miguel Andujar’s proven bat in the lineup, Frazier will likely make the expanded 30-man roster for the first two weeks of the season.
But Frazier knows that his immediate future is foggy.
“I think it’s pretty natural to let your mind wander to those areas. But something I’ve learned the last couple years is to stop trying to play GM. I have a role. I don’t know what that role is going to be and I guess as the season continues to unfold, we’ll figure out what all of our roles might be,” Frazier said this week. “Hopefully it’s one that gets to play a big part and a consistent role if I earn it.”
But Frazier is a first-round draft pick with legendary bat speed. He showed his potential in streaks during a stint with the Yankees last season. Frazier also showed his tendency to strike out and his weaknesses as an outfielder.
So, even though he’s a safe bet to make the roster, Frazier, who missed the first few intrasquad games because of plantar fasciitis, is fighting with every training camp at-bat.
“I’m not trying to get too relaxed with how many guys that we have on the roster who could play on other teams as well,” Frazier said. “I’m competing against guys that could be on starting teams on a lot of other teams. So I don’t want to get too relaxed in the sense that I’m, concrete in the spot.
“But you know, I am happy that the rosters expanded that way I can continue to try to get my feet wet and continue to try obviously make a positive out of any opportunity that I’m given.”
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