TAMPA — Clint Frazier has grown up. The cocky kid who made headlines more for his blunders on and off the field is more comfortable in his own skin. He’s accepting mistakes he made in the past and moving on.
“So it definitely feels good knowing that whenever I walk into a locker room that I don’t have eyes on me because of something that I possibly did that caused other people that have to answer questions,” Frazier said. “So, I feel like I’m growing up, I feel like I’m a part of this team. Everything that happened in the past obviously happened for a reason. Thrilled to still be with this team because it is the greatest team I feel like to play for. You learn from those things and I don’t want to be a guy that’s a distraction, I just want to be a guy that is somebody that has fun and maintains who he is through this process and ultimately is a good teammate to everyone that comes around me.”
It’s a little easier now that Frazier is 26 years old and is coming off a good, albeit abbreviated, season. It also helps that Frazier’s place has been made clear coming into this season. He will be the starting left fielder, Aaron Boone said at the beginning of the season.
“I found it out through Twitter,” Frazier said. “None of those words have been spoken to me directly, but it feels good to know that 2021 is a little bit of a different feeling than it has been in years past. I feel very much like a part of this team, moving forward and I’m really excited. To be honest I’m thrilled.”
Last season Frazier, who made 27 starts in right field and 28 appearances mostly while Aaron Judge was out with a calf injury, transformed himself from a player who cost the Yankees eight runs in 2019 with his defense, to a plus-2 in defensive runs saved last season. In 51 chances in right field this season, Frazier made one error.
Part of that was also being more comfortable another year removed from a spring training collision with a wall that caused a severe concussion.
“I joked today like not running into the wall, it’s just a matter of knowing where you are out there so I need to go out there and try to build a good relationship with all those walls,” Frazier said.
After being demoted to start the 2020 season, Frazier also showed his bat was improving another year removed from post-concussion syndrome. He hit .267/394/.511 with eight homers in 160 at-bats.
That earned him some peace of mind coming back — even after the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner last week.
“I think for me the biggest difference is I feel like the pressure I have off of my shoulders, but there still is added pressure, maintaining that job,” Frazier said. “I’ve been trying to earn the job and I guess I’ve kind of earned it now. Brett’s obviously held it down for so long and there’s so many other guys capable of doing it, but I’m just trying to go about it like I’m playing glorified wiffle ball every day; just trying to have fun. Ultimately it is a game designed to have fun, but it is a numbers driven game and I feel really good about the way that my offseason went and what these first couple days of camp have felt like for me.”