Yankees veterans helped Clint Frazier reinvent himself

Brett Gardner is the longest tenured Yankee, so he has been a natural at advising younger players who seek advice about being part of the most famous baseball team in history.

Smartly, Clint Frazier has relied on Gardner.

“He and I have had some conversations, not necessarily just recently, but over the years and just continues to be the same thing I would really say to any other young guy,’’ Gardner said Sunday on a Zoom call before the Yankees hosted the Mets at Yankee Stadium in the second of two exhibition games. “Take advantage of the opportunities you are given and make sure you put in the work to make sure you are ready. I think he has done a really good job of that. He has a world of talent and I have seen him make strides not just on the field but off the field, and the way he approaches the game on a daily basis. It has been fun to see him improve in those areas.’’

From the beginning of spring training in February it was easy to see a change in Frazier in the clubhouse. In previous years, Frazier drew attention to himself. This year he blended in. On the field he changed his stance at the plate and showed improvement on defense, which wasn’t good in the big leagues last year.

Had the season opened on March 26, Frazier was the favorite to be the starting left fielder against the Orioles because Gardner was needed in center to replace Aaron Hicks (Tommy John surgery) and Mike Tauchman was needed to fill in for Aaron Judge (fractured rib) in right.

Now, Hicks and Judge are healthy, and Aaron Boone prefers to use Giancarlo Stanton, who wouldn’t have been ready on March 26 due to a calf injury suffered during fielding drills in February, as the DH after he played in 18 games last year. That means Gardner will be in left.

According to Gardner, Frazier has solicited advice from not only him but has tapped into the other older heads in the clubhouse.

“I think he has done a good job of talking to some veteran players and making adjustments to his game and make adjustments to his routine, the way he carries himself,’’ Gardner said of the 25-year-old Frazier, the key part of the Andrew Miller trade to the Indians in 2016 and the fifth player taken in the 2013 draft. “He has been working really, really hard. Just very focused and continues to put in the extra work on defense to try and shore that up. Obviously you saw what he is capable of with the bat [Saturday night] against the Mets.’’

Frazier sent a Rick Porcello pitch into the second deck of Citi Field’s left-field seats.

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Despite the lower profile, work on defense and a bat the Yankees believe is legitimate, there might not be a spot for Frazier on the 30-man roster that will be in play for the first two weeks of the season and then be reduced by two. Or he could be the fifth outfielder and provide a right-handed bat off the bench.

Asked about Tauchman and Frazier, Hicks offered praise for each.

“They are two great players who can definitely help this team,’’ Hicks said.

If healthy, Tauchman is a lock for the fourth outfield spot due to a solid bat and the ability to play right, center and left. With Miguel Andujar getting work in left and Tyler Wade having played the outfield, Frazier could be squeezed out. How many pitchers are carried also will play a part.

“I am just happy I don’t have to deal with that decision,” Hicks said.

Gardner, 37 next month, said it was easy to play sage to Frazier because he remembers being young in a Yankees universe surrounded by older players.

“Johnny Damon helped me out as a rookie, treating me the same way he probably remembered being treated as a young guy in Kansas City,” Gardner recalled. “I was very fortunate to have a room full of veterans. Johnny really stands out as that guy.”

Now it is Gardner’s turn to dispense advice. And, based on intrasquad games and on exhibition game, it appears Frazier is smartly drinking in the advice from Gardner and others.

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