NEW YORK — When Clint Frazier addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon for the first time this season, one day after being called up from the Yankees' alternate site, the outfielder was bursting with confidence.
"I feel like I'm the best player right now than I've ever been," he said as a smile crept across his lips. "I've worked on a lot of things and I'm ready to show it off."
Fast forward to 12 hours later and Frazier made his second appearance in the Yankees' Zoom room. Asked if his performance in his regular season debut was what he meant when he said he was ready, the outfielder's smile returned in full force.
"I guess," he said, beaming. "Tonight was fun."
Frazier's 2020 debut featured three hits, including a home run in his first at-bat, as No. 77 finished a triple shy of the cycle in a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
"That's just a great night," manager Aaron Boone said. "Home run out of the gate, got into some deeper counts, had some two-strike at-bats in there ... You throw three out there — single, double, homer — that's a pretty good return."
Frazier took just the fourth pitch he saw 410 feet into the visitor's bullpen, a solo shot to tie the game at two apiece early on. In his next two at-bats, Frazier lined a single to left and laced a double into the left-field corner.
These weren't cheapies either. Frazier's three hits had an average exit velocity just over 101 mph, per Statcast. His long ball to left-center field came off his bat at 103.1 mph.
"It felt good to get the first at-bat out of the way and just kind of be able to breath," Frazier said. "I think I’m a little more advanced in some areas and I’m just glad that tonight was able to start with a bang."
Frazier was demoted to New York's alternate site after the club's second game of the season. At the time, Boone explained that the 25-year-old was the "odd man out" with a need for pitching reinforcements at the big-league level.
Looking back on that tough conversation, one the duo has had before in recent years, Boone said Frazier was "honest" and "mature" when taking the news. Just one day after he was optioned, Boone said, Frazier was already training to prove he was ready to return, work ethic that caught the skipper's eye.
"I don't want to be trite but I'm really proud of the pro that he's been and he's put himself in a great position to earn this opportunity again here," Boone said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him go out there and contribute."
The outfielder revealed in retrospect that he was frustrated. In fact, he was grappling with so much uncertainty during his stint away from the big-league club, he wondered if he'd ever have an opportunity to play in pinstripes again.
"The thought crossed my mind a few times," he admitted. "Obviously being down in the alternate site for a few weeks was tough and at times I wondered ‘am I gonna make it back?’ Obviously something came up for me to come here and I’m here and I wondered am I going to get a chance or am I just gonna hang out and watch the games. I’m just overall thrilled I got the opportunity tonight and I’m hoping that another one comes shortly in the future."
With Giancarlo Stanton expected to miss three-plus weeks with a hamstring strain — while uncertainty regarding Aaron Judge's health grows as the slugger was out of the lineup Wednesday with lower body tightness — Frazier is poised to be on the receiving end of some well-deserved playing time.
An opportunity, after all, is what Frazier has wanted all along.
"I hope that I can at least get a couple chances to go out there and do my best because that's really all I'm asking for now," he said. "A chance to go out there and try to do what I love to do and try to make the most of it whenever I get that chance."
As for what's next, only time will tell how often Frazier's name is pencilled in on the Bombers' lineup card. That said, Frazier can sleep well tonight knowing he impressed his manager and did all he could to earn more at-bats.
"I'm not surprised," Boone said. "He was a big reason why we won tonight."
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