After the Yankees' 9-2 loss against the Nationals on Saturday night, manager Aaron Boone had a difficult decision to make.
New York had used six pitchers — after starter James Paxton struggled, lasting just one frame — and were in need of fresh arms at the big-league level for a day game on Sunday.
Boone and the Yankees' coaching staff elected to option two ballplayers from the club's Opening Day roster to make room for two right-handers. One of those sent down was outfielder Clint Frazier.
"Clint was the odd man out," Boone explained the following morning. "That doesn't make it any easier because he's done everything from a work standpoint, from a focus standpoint, and where I believe he's at right now as a player too, it's hard when you're sending down a big-league player that you know is ready to produce."
This isn't the first time Frazier has been demoted. Since 2018, Frazier has been optioned six different times. He's never played in more than 70 games in a single season with the Bombers since his debut in 2017.
This time around, Boone said the 25-year-old took the news like a "pro" and that he's "really proud of who he is right now and where he's at." That said, even after he was poised to have a bigger role this season, his ability to seek out playing time moving forward continues to be murky in the Bronx.
"Clint's ready to be an impact player in this league, there's no doubt in my mind," Boone said. "Just unfortunately for him, he's blocked right now with a lot of good outfielders."
Had the regular season started on time back in March — with Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on the shelf with injuries — Frazier had a good shot to be the Yankees' Opening Day left fielder. At the very least, he would have seen a massive increase in his at-bats and innings in the field early on.
Now, despite swinging a hot bat at Summer Camp and launching a moonshot against the Mets in New York's exhibition game one week ago, he'll need to watch his teammates from the club's alternate training site (at the home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders).
"It's kind of the situation we're in right now so hopefully he'll get down there and just be able to keep his focus as best he can because I know there's a great chance that he'll be impacting us sooner rather than later."
Right-handers Brooks Kriske and Nick Nelson were added to New York's 30-man roster while Ben Heller also was optioned after pitching an inning on Saturday night.
When asked what he predicts Frazier's role will be moving forward, Boone said injuries — or even other players testing positive for COVID-19 — could be his ticket to getting more playing time this summer.
For a former top prospect and ballplayer that's shown glimpses of greatness in limited action in pinstripes, it makes you wonder what kind of numbers he could put up if he had a chance to play a full season.
A surplus of depth is certainly a good problem to have, but in Frazier's case, who knows how much longer he'll be on the outside looking in.
"I feel like the work he's put in and the strides he's made in every aspect of his game are real," Boone said. "With our roster right now filled up it's just difficult to crack and to really get legitimate playing time right now so it's a unique situation but doesn't make it any less hard to deliver that news."
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Should the Yankees trade Clint Frazier? Should he be in the starting lineup over the likes of Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!