KANSAS CITY — Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier kept smiling as he answered a few questions at his locker after his first big-league game of the year.
The red-headed ball of energy couldn’t help himself.
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Everything about Saturday was a blast.
Most everything. Hitting into a double play was no fun, but going 1 for 2 with a double and two walks as the Yankees’ designated hitter in an 8-3 Yankees win over the Kansas City Royals made for a long-time-coming, satisfying work day.
And watching the Yankees show off their power with a five-homer game was the cherry on top.
“You don’t see that in Scranton,” Frazier said. “It’s fun. I’m still kind of in awe. I didn’t have a spring training with these guys, so I didn’t see it in person.”
His spring training concussion was one of the toughest things he’s ever had to deal with in his young life and before Saturday’s game he talked at length about his way-longer-than-expected recovery.
Frazier, 23, also once made it very clear once again that he wants to a Yankee now and forever when he was asked about his name often coming up in trade rumors because the big club is set at all three outfield positions and DH.
“I want to be here for the rest of my career,” Frazier said with conviction. “This is an amazing place to be right now. I don’t want to be traded. I want to be a Yankee and I want to be a part of this special team for a long time to come.”
Frazier once was a big-time Indians prospect who joined the Yankees in a summer of ’16 deal. His time as a Yankees prospect hasn’t always been smooth sailing – his hair length became an issue during 2017 spring training – but he’s done a lot of growing up on and off the field in the last two years.
He showed maturity in his game by working walks in his first two at-bats Saturday facing Royals lefty Danny Duffy. Two plate appearances later, Frazier showed off his opposite-field hitting skills by lining a double to right-center.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone loved Frazier’s at-bats.
“Yeah, really good,” he said. “Real patient obviously. He smokes a ball the other way. Mature at-bats. Under control. To go right in there and have quality ABs, it makes me excited for him.”
These at-bats were Frazier’s first since last Sunday, his last Triple-A game. Frazier was called up for last week’s interleague series in Washington, but he didn’t play in Tuesday’s suspended game, then the Yankees were rained out on Wednesday and off on Thursday.
“I was literally just react to whatever was in the zone,” Frazier said. “I think the story of my season last year was it started good and fizzled out because I didn’t have much of an approach at the plate. This year I was making sure that I have a gameplan going up there and try to stick to it.”
His first game went so well that Boone walked up to him late Saturday night and said, “Left field tomorrow.”
So Frazier will be in there for the Yankees-Royals’ series finale, and then who knows. He’ll probably be optioned back to Triple-A next week to get regular at-bats, but things change all the time in baseball due to injuries and other things.
Whatever happens, Frazier is happy that he’s had a chance to show the Yankees what he can do again. They saw glimpses of greatness last summer when Frazier made a big splash during his first call-up as a fill-in starter, but a hot streak led to struggles and then a return to Triple-A. He finished his rookie season hitting just .239 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 39 games.
“This year I feel like I’ve earned the promotion,” said Frazier, who hit .362 in 12 Triple-A games. “Last year there were some injuries to get called up. This year I had the performance in the minor leagues and I thought it was deserving of the call-up when the time came.
“It just makes me happy that I’m here now because of everything I went through in Tampa. A lot of people don’t know how hard it is to go through a concussion every single day. It sucks.”
Frazier suffered a concussion running into an outfield wall during a Feb. 24 Grapefruit League game in Bradenton, Fla., and didn’t begin his season until beginning a rehab assignment with Class A Tampa on April 26.
Frazier was in Tampa the entire time, and getting over the concussion was a mental grind, especially the setbacks, like when he practiced at night for the first time.
“It was one of those injuries that the more frustrated I got, the more emotional I felt about it and the worse it could have made my symptoms because it was what was inside my head,” Frazier said. “I was trying to make sure that everything I did was in a positive manner, even the music that I listened to and the movies that I watched and (TV) shows to try to get laughter because I was sitting in my apartment all day long.
“I watched a lot of Friends. I watched a little bit of The Office, things to try to make me laugh. Mainly music was the thing. Any time there was a dull moment, I had music playing. The idiom was The Chainsmokers’ sound, something uplifting … mood boosters to try to maybe trick myself to think it’s going to be all right.”
Finally, it’s all right again.
Frazier proved it on Saturday night.
“I felt really comfortable,” he said. “Obviously, I haven’t played in a few days, so I had to make sure I was really locked in. But that wasn’t a problem. I was just happy to be out there. It was a really good experience.”
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