New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has had a roller coaster tenure with the Yankees, but he made a statement in his first game back since being called up against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
Frazier was brought in to replace slugger Giancarlo Stanton who, yet again, is out with an injury, and rewarded the Yankees faith by going -for-4 with a solo home run in his first at-bat, a double and two runs scored in his 2020 season debut.
“Tonight was fun,” Frazier said, according to ESPN’s Marly Rivera.
“Felt good to get the first at-bat out of the way. I’m just glad that tonight I was able to start with a bang.
“Tonight was my first real game of 2020 and it felt good. It’s not going to be easy every time I step up to the plate. Being in the alternate site for a few weeks, I wondered if I was going to get back. … I’m just thrilled that I got to play tonight.”
“That’s just a great night” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, a home run out of the gate. Single, double, homer … that’s a pretty good return. And I’m not surprised. He’s been in a great place all this year, in spring and summer camp, and the way he was doing down there the last 10 days or so. I’m excited to see him come up and have an impact.”
But Frazier, 25, shouldn’t be up just to bide the Yankees time as they await return from Stanton and oft-injured Aaron Judge, Frazier should be taking time away from another Yankee – Brett Gardner.
“There were a lot of questions asked,” Frazier said. “[We talked about things like] what is expected of me, what do I need to do to get back, stuff like that. And ultimately, where is my place on this team. Because it’s a really good team and I feel like I’m ready. I think there’s a lot of people that feel that way, too. But there’s a lot of guys in front of me and it’s been frustrating. It’s hard to make the most of something if you’re not given that chance, and I would like that chance.”
Yankee fans have been arguing back and forth since the start of the season about where Gardner fits best on the 2020 Yankees, and who should be taking time away from the 36-year old outfielder.
Regardless of your point of view, the Yankees have been oddly committed to keeping Gardner in the lineup almost every day, despite his rapid decline in production at the plate, and some slight decline in his outfield play.
But now, the Yankees can ill-afford to await Gardner to snap out of a slump at the plate, with the impressive play of Mike Tauchman and the return of Frazier, both significantly younger players.
At this point, Gardner no longer warrants a stronghold on a starting position, and should see his time cut so that the Yankees can really see what they have in Tauchman and Frazier.
“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Frazier added. “I think I’m still trying to find my role because I’m human, and I look at a couple weeks from now whenever Stanton does come back and where that puts me, and I think that I at least have time between now and then to possibly establish a role, and I would hope that I make the most of it. All I’m asking for now is just a chance to go out there and try and do what I love to do, and make the most of it.”
I am certainly not advocating for the Yanks to bury Gardner on the bench, but cutting his time a bit isn’t a suggesting rooted in insanity.
Gardner is still a superior outfielder to Frazier, still puts together tough at-bats, and is still a respectable outfielder, but given his age and his down numbers in 2020, the time has come to look at the next stage of Gardner’s career.
Gardner platooning, on a part time basis, used in pinch hitting situations and for defensive purposes, with the occasional start seems to be a role better suited for the 2020 Gardner.
And, give the history of Judge, Stanton, and Aaron Hicks, when injuries again rear their head, Gardner can slide right into a more prominent role.
Because while the Yankees are hoping to see Gardner get something back from 2020, they are doing so at the expense of young players such as Frazier, who may be a bit of a liability in the outfield, but whose best days are likely ahead of him.