Clint Frazier made a major upgrade moving from the Yankees’ alternate site to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. Now, the next move will be from the bench to a spot in the lineup.
Officially recalled on Tuesday, the outfielder wasn’t in Aaron Boone’s lineup against Braves right-hander Touki Toussaint, but the plan is for Frazier, who turns 26 next month, to be included going forward.
“I expect he is going to play and play an important role for us,’’ Boone said late Tuesday afternoon. “Obviously, off the bench [Tuesday] could provide a big spot. Just feel like, again, very difficult having to send him out. Based on his past performance and his talent, but also how he performed in the spring and the summer. I feel like where he is at right now, he went down there the next day and the work has been good and consistent and excited to have him back.’’
With designated-hitter Giancarlo Stanton out for possibly a month, Boone is going to need a productive bat to fill that vacancy. Tuesday night it was the left-handed Mike Ford, but the manager said Frazier will be used in multiple places, including DH.
“I can see him DHing, I can see him playing in the outfield, absolutely seeing him getting looks everywhere,’’ Boone said.
While Frazier isn’t going to be a Gold Glove winner, he is an upgrade over Miguel Andujar, who the Yankees wanted to look at in the outfield. That cost Frazier a big-league uniform and he was sent to the alternate site on July 25. Not only did Andujar make a fielding error on a routine ground ball in left field, he went 1-for-14 (.071) in five games and joined Frazier in Scranton on Aug. 5.
Boone has done well finding a lot of playing time for fourth outfielder Mike Tauchman. Now the challenge will be to get Frazier involved on somewhat of a regular basis. Playing time in left field could come against lefty starters since Brett Gardner and Tauchman hit left-handed. Frazier could spell Aaron Judge in right, but Frazier looks more comfortable in left. And since Stanton left a big hole in the DH spot, Frazier could share that position with the left-handed-hitting Ford, who has played with Frazier in Triple-A.
“Everyone knows Clint and what he can do with the bat and with the glove. I love playing alongside him. He is an electric player. He has pop, speed, hit ability, obviously great hands at the plate,’’ said Ford, who was the DH on Tuesday night. “I think he will do a great job when he is in there. I have full confidence in him and I think he is a great asset to have on the team.’’
The biggest asset Frazier can provide is, like all young Yankees, he is not only playing for the Yankees but auditioning for the other 29 teams. Despite his up and down Yankee career, teams remain interested in the fifth pick of the 2013 draft by the Indians because of a bat that produced a .267 average, 12 homers, 38 RBIs and an OPS of .806 in 69 big-league games a year ago.
By now the story is well known. Had the regular season opened on March 26, Frazier figured to be the starting left fielder because Stanton wasn’t going to be ready due to an early spring training calf injury. Tauchman was going to be in right because Judge was still recovering from a fractured right rib. And Gardner would have been in center in place of Aaron Hicks, who was coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Of course the season didn’t start until July 23, when all three outfielders were back with Stanton the full-time DH and Gardner the left fielder.
Two days later Frazier was sent out. No longer the magnet for attention, Frazier is back at a time when the Yankees are in need of a right-handed bat with Stanton out.