Clint Frazier ready to play by the rules in his return to the Yankees

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Hannah Keyser
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NEW YORK — Clint Frazier knows that the New York Yankees don’t approve of his nose piercing — and not for safety reasons.

“I think it’s just frowned upon,” he told Yahoo Sports on Sunday, his first day back in the Bronx after a 2 1/2-month stint in Triple-A. Frazier was one of several September call-ups who joined New York ahead of its game against the Oakland A’s, and the 24-year-old outfielder seems to have retained at least some of the characteristic flair that initially made him a fan favorite but then rubbed some in New York the wrong way.

“I’m contemplating getting this one pierced, too,” Frazier said, pointing to the other side of his nose. “Like Lenny Kravitz, so having a hoop over here.”

It’s unclear if the Yankees have a rule — written or otherwise — against piercings in the same way they police facial hair and flowing locks like the sort Frazier sported before he joined the team and was judged to be a follicular distraction.

In that sense, at least, Frazier is playing by the rules. His hair remains short — shaved on the sides, some curls arranged cleanly on top — and he insisted on shaving his face before he spoke to media pregame Sunday.

“It’s like a long dream is what it feels like,” he said of his return to Yankee Stadium.

In 53 games with the big league club, Frazier slashed .283/.330/.513 with 11 home runs to help push the almost preternaturally injury-depleted Yankees atop the standings. But he made a number of dramatic defensive miscues, and advanced metrics ranked him among the worst outfielders in baseball — Mike Tauchman, who became a lineup staple in the wake of Frazier’s demotion, ranks among the best.

A little over a week after Frazier incited a multi-day news cycle by ducking the media following one such poor defensive performance, he was sent down to the minors to make room for Edwin Encarnación and the returning Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

New York Yankees' Clint Frazier bats in a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Clint Frazier returned to the New York Yankees on Sunday. (AP)

He called it a “tough pill to swallow,” but later told the New York Times, “I can’t be mad about my situation. Ultimately, I put myself here.”

And he stayed there through the trade deadline and even up through the Yankees setting a new record for players on the injured list, slugging just .433 with eight homers over 61 games with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

It wasn’t until rosters expanded for September that Frazier was given a second chance to prove he can contribute at the major league level this year.

“I went down there and obviously had to focus on some things to make it back here,” he said. “I definitely think I made some good plays while I was down there and ready to see how it translates up here.”

He wasn’t given the chance to demonstrate how much his defense had improved Sunday, but he was in the lineup. Yankees manager Aaron Boone slotted Frazier at DH to get a right-handed bat in the bottom of the order against Oakland lefty Sean Manaea, and he hit two hard outs and drew a walk, receiving an enthusiastic round of applause before his first at-bat. Ultimately, he was just the guy who was pulled in the bottom of the ninth so Mike Ford could hit a walk-off, pinch-hit home run in the Yankees’ 5-4 victory.

For much of the summer, the Yankees had the luxury of not needing the flashy first-rounder to pull away from the pack. And if you were Clint Frazier, you’d be forgiven for thinking they didn’t want him either. But they failed to flip him for pitching depth at the deadline and there’s only so long you can let a 120 OPS+ languish in the minors — and that’s exactly as long as the rosters are capped at 25 men.

Frazier is back in the lineup Monday — and in left field — as the Yankees face Texas lefty Mike Minor. And if they let him, he’ll undoubtedly contribute at the plate as the Yankees look to clinch the AL East. It remains to be seen if he’s honed his defense as he claims — and whether both sides can bring out the best in each other.

For his part, Frazier is trying to say all the right things. “Obviously I’m lucky enough to come back, help a really good team be a little bit better,” he said Sunday. “Trying to do my part; whatever that is, I’ll do it.”

If he makes good on that, the Yankees would be wise to let the nose ring stuff slide.

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