TAMPA, Fla. -- The timing is right for Clint Frazier. Now he just has to break through.
Frazier, who’s vying for an everyday spot in the lineup with the Yankees, hit a home run in his first at-bat in Thursday afternoon's 7-1 win over the Rays and credited a change he’s made with his mechanics.
The 25-year-old outfielder said that he’s trying a new trigger mechanism that places his front foot turned inward as much as he can. Frazier said that he puts 60% of his weight on his back leg and that he’s eliminated a long stride to the ball in order to unlock his potential.
“The toe was my idea, but there were some people along the way that put me in a few different positions,” said Frazier of his newfound hitting stance. “Your body speaks feel; what feels right, you want to continue to do. I had to be the one ultimately to choose what that was, because I was the one feeling it. I used the toe to preset something and try to go from there.”
The homer -- hit off Tampa Bay’s Aaron Slegers immediately after Tyler Wade belted a two-run shot -- helped to jump-start the Yankees. New York hit three home runs after hitting just two in its first five Spring Training games.
Frazier said he took part of his new approach from former teammate Matt Holliday, and that he played around with it until it felt comfortable to take into the batter’s box.
The Georgia native was the fifth overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft, and he got 200 at-bats in the big leagues for the first time last season. Frazier hit .267 with 12 home runs in 225 at-bats, and he wants to do whatever he can to build on his success.
“A lot of times, people have talked about my bat speed, but I never really felt like it was always there,” he said. “I felt like I was trying to shoot a gun with it on safety. There were things stopping it along the way and I didn’t feel like I wanted it to. I feel like this move is giving me my best chance.”
The youngster has an opportunity to force his way into the lineup due to the extended absence of Aaron Hicks and a spring injury to slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is sidelined with a strained right calf and his prognosis for Opening Day is uncertain at this point.
Manager Aaron Boone said Thursday that he likes what he’s seen from Frazier and hopes to see him continue the same approach.
“He’s always worked. He’s always done a lot of good things,” said Boone. “He’s had some bumps along the way, but I’ve never questioned how hard he’s worked at things. I will say there’s been a real level of focus and professionalism, and early on, he’s getting good results out of it. I would say he’s in a really good place physically and mentally.”
Boone said that not only is Frazier swinging the bat well, but he’s also selecting the right pitches to hit. Frazier is laying off close pitches and putting himself in a hitter’s count. That proved to be true in Thursday’s game when he worked a 3-0 count and then drove the ball over the left-field fence.
Frazier said he knew it would be an uphill battle to earn playing time on this loaded Yankees roster, but he recognizes the opportunity he may have while Stanton is sidelined. And while he’s thrilled with his early results, he knows there’s a lot of work to do to get where he wants to be.
“I still have to finish the camp healthy,” Frazier said. “I still have to go out there and perform and ultimately show them I might be able to play the position the way they want me to if called upon.”