TAMPA, Fla. -- The first fly ball hit toward Clint Frazier in a Grapefruit League game this spring presented an unexpected challenge, as Rowdy Tellez’s second-inning drive in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays spun in a stiff breeze. As it did, the Yankees outfielder said he thought, “This
TAMPA, Fla. -- The first fly ball hit toward Clint Frazier in a Grapefruit League game this spring presented an unexpected challenge, as Rowdy Tellez’s second-inning drive in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays spun in a stiff breeze. As it did, the Yankees outfielder said he thought, “This is not how it begins.”
Frazier tracked the ball against the blue sky and recorded the putout in left field, allowing himself a slight smile after it was secured in the pocket of his red Wilson glove. As Frazier fights for a roster spot this spring, the 25-year-old intends to prove that he can handle regular duty patrolling the corners.
“The offseason was much needed,” Frazier said. “Everyone tries to get through things on a daily basis, but it's a little harder to get through whenever it's in front of 50,000 fans and then the millions that are watching away from the field. It was tough. Obviously, there was no secret as to what I needed to work on. I felt like my back was against the wall in the offseason. I had to fight to come into camp and prove myself, and I feel good. I'm ready to fight.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that he has been pleased with Frazier’s defensive work so far in camp, as well as his performance during hitting drills. Frazier said that one change he made prior to this spring is what he calls “revving his engine” -- bouncing on the balls of his feet prior to pitches, similar to an infielder, in an effort to generate momentum.
“Things have been going great in practice, but practice is practice,” Frazier said. “I was ready to see how I felt in the game. It’s probably more about the defense than the offense, and for the most part, I felt good out there. I caught all three balls, so that's all you can really build off.”
Frazier’s place in the outfield picture is yet unclear. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge figure to be locks if healthy, Mike Tauchman boasts the ability to play all three positions and Boone has spoken optimistically about having Giancarlo Stanton play on a semi-regular basis in the outfield. Frazier believes that there is still a path to log meaningful big league at-bats.
“It feels like it's my first time where I have a legitimate chance to break with the club,” Frazier said. “Every other year I thought that I did, but as camp ended, it was probably not in the cards. Now it's like, if I put myself in a good position, we'll see what happens.”
Judge (sore right shoulder) continued to progress on Saturday, taking about 50 swings indoors off a tee while throwing at a distance of 90 feet. There is no set date for Judge’s first spring game.
“We’ll be conservative with how we build him up hitting,” Boone said. “We won’t rush him, but he’s fine.”
Pax all, folks
Boone raised some eyebrows when he said on Saturday that James Paxton (back surgery) could resume playing catch in approximately seven to 10 days, but the left-hander said that is consistent with a timetable provided by Dr. Andrew Dossett, who performed the Feb. 5 procedure in Dallas.
“Everything's been going really well,” Paxton said. “I responded really well to all of the therapy so far, the workouts and stuff. I think as long as things keep going in that direction, I could be throwing in 10 days.”
Paxton has been told that he will need three to four months to recover from the procedure, a microscopic lumbar discectomy with the removal of a peridiscal cyst.
“He's moving around well,” Boone said. “This nagged him a little bit towards the end of the season and then into the postseason, and we feel like that's probably behind him now. When he does come [back], hopefully he continues to build on what he was able to do last year.”
Boone said that Gardner, Gary Sánchez and Stanton are expected to start on Monday evening against the Pirates, a contest that will also feature Gerrit Cole’s spring debut.
The Yankees are on the road Sunday, visiting the Rays for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest in Port Charlotte, Fla. Right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga is scheduled to start for New York, with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough drawing the nod for Tampa Bay. The Yanks’ travel roster is scheduled to feature Clarke Schmidt, the club’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, plus Miguel Andújar, Luke Voit and Tyler Wade.
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.