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Frazier ready to capitalize on strong rookie year

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There was very little "off" in the offseason for Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who managed to cram a whole lot of activity into just a few months.

For starters, there were two major personal milestones. Frazier got married, and he and new wife, Jackie, bought their first home, in his hometown of Toms River, N.J. Then came Hurricane Sandy, which brought devastation that Frazier and his family were fortunate to escape unscathed. After the storm beat up New Jersey, he donated his time and effort to raise funds for those who were not as lucky.

"I'll tell you one thing, it was one of the fastest offseasons I've ever had," said Frazier, who was drafted by Cincinnati in 2007. "Something came up every day. It flew by. The only downtime I got was the honeymoon. It was good. I got two big things out of the way. We're still working hard to get back to where we need to be in the community."

And then there was his job. Frazier was anointed the new regular third baseman shortly after his 2012 breakout rookie year. He spent considerable portions of his winter making sure he was ready to replace eight-time Gold Glove winner Scott Rolen.

Reds manager Dusty Baker gave Frazier the assignment of improving his footwork.

"I worked out five days a week, mainly on my footwork at third base," Frazier said. "It's all about reaction, but that first step is really big. I'm working on that a lot here, too."

Frazier batted .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs in 128 games last season and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. However, his peers voted him as the Players Choice Award Rookie of the Year. It was a strong outcome for a player who began the season in Triple-A and who lacked a regular spot in the Majors.

Among NL rookies, Frazier was second in RBIs and with a .498 slugging percentage. He was tied for second with six triples, third in homers and 10th in batting average.

Frazier, who turned 27 last Tuesday, is the epitome of a player not squandering an opportunity. From May 12 to June 16, he started 28 of the games Rolen missed while on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and he hit six homers with 19 RBIs. When cornerstone first baseman Joey Votto was out from July 16 to Sept. 3 with a knee injury, Frazier batted .305 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games, including 36 starts at first base.

The contributions were pivotal as the Reds did not miss a beat without Votto or Rolen during their drive to win the NL Central.

"We're going to give him an opportunity to play," Baker said. "He's a strong man. He brings some good things to the table and some good things to the team. Not only with the game in how he plays, but the personality of a winner. He's not scared or intimidated by anybody."

When Rolen became a free agent contemplating retirement last fall, the Reds were quick to name Frazier as their projected starter. The door was left open for Rolen to return in a reduced role. It still remains open, but Rolen decided last week not to commit to the team.

Frazier was never worried about Rolen's decision affecting his status.

"I went in thinking it was my spot," he said. "You have to have that confidence and a positive vibe about yourself. If you go in and think you don't have a spot, you're hesitant. You don't want to be hesitant in anything you do."

The Reds have gotten an extended look at what Frazier can do. But there is still work to be done for him to become a complete player, Baker acknowledged.

"It takes time to see how a young player makes adjustments to how a league learns him and how to pitch him," Baker said. "A lot of times that affects your fielding. He worked hard this winter. We told him to go home and work on his first step agility, and that's what he did. It's not called the hot corner for nothing. You end up reaching if you don't have that quick step. We take pride on defense here. He's worked hard at it."

Frazier enlisted the help of Ed Hefernan, a retired speed and agility coach in New Jersey, three days a week during the winter to make him more nimble.

"That ball down the line, it's getting to it instead of letting it get by," Frazier said. "My forehand is good and my backhand is pretty good, but it's not good enough."

Since the day the former Rutgers shortstop was a first-round supplemental pick of the Reds in the 2007 Draft, Frazier has moved all over the place. He's played first base, second base, third base and left field. It's been the same during his brief time in the Majors.

Now Frazier has a new home in New Jersey, and a place to call home on the field.

"It's huge. I don't have a lot of gloves anymore, only four or five instead of nine," Frazier said. "To work at one position is great. That was my ultimate goal. Being a utility guy was awesome. If I had to do it again, I would. It was great for me. You never knew where you'd be that day, and now to work on one position is fun. It's awesome even being a starter. It's something I've dreamed of my whole life. Like last year, once you get that opportunity, take off with it. You have to prove yourself year after year and day after day."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
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