HOUSTON — Clint Frazier is determined to not be a distraction.
The 22-year-old outfielder, who at times was a minor distraction during spring training — his hesitancy to cut his flowing mane of red hair bothered some in the Yankees’ organization, both inside and outside of the clubhouse — now would prefer it to be solely about baseball.
“I needed to get called out that I was the black sheep in the crowd,” said Frazier, who made his major-league debut Saturday night. Called up earlier in the day, he immediately was thrown into the fire, starting in rightfield and batting ninth against the Astros.
After striking out in his first at-bat, he doubled to left in his second, chatted about his first major-league hit with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa — and then followed up Correa’s homer with one of his own as the Yankees took a 6-3 lead in the seventh.
Frazier, the centerpiece of last July’s deadline deal with the Indians that sent Andrew Miller to Cleveland, garnered attention from the moment he joined the Yankees’ organization because of his ability, outgoing personality, bright red hair and self-confidence.
But the righthanded-hitting Frazier, whose bat speed was described as “legendary” by general manager Brian Cashman after the trade, didn’t have a seamless transition to Triple-A last year. He had a .228/.278/.386 slash line in 25 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“Looking back on last year, I tried to prove I was the guy I got traded for, and I think I struggle doing that,” he said.
Then came spring training. Frazier had his moments, producing a .273/.267/.432 slash line in 22 games, but he also showed what some in the organization perceived as an indifference to the Yankees’ longstanding hair policy. Though a false narrative developed — and still is occasionally repeated — that the length of Frazier’s hair was a media-driven story, it ultimately came to a head when CC Sabathia started growing a beard. It was not a coincidence that both players showed up the same morning during spring training with significant trims.
“I meant no harm by growing it out. I was under the impression that it was still following the rules,” Frazier said Saturday.
In 73 games with Scranton this season, Frazier hit .257 with 12 homers, 42 RBIs and an .819 OPS. The Yankees would have preferred to have him stay in the minors for more seasoning, but a glut of injuries forced their hand.
“We needed another outfielder,” Joe Girardi said.
When he got the word that he was going to The Show, Frazier got deked by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique late Friday night.
“He had a unique way of going about telling me,” Frazier said with a smile. “He definitely didn’t make me think I was going up when I sat down and we started talking. It was a conversation that needed to be had, to make sure I was continuing to work on things and just because I had gotten my first call-up, it’s not time to be complacent.”
Frazier was not complaining.
“There was a lot of truth to what he was saying,” he said. “That I need to continue to work on my defense, on my baserunning and just focus on being a good teammate in the clubhouse and be all ears up here. Those are things that aren’t bad to be reminded about.”
As for his personality, Frazier said he’ll still show it.
“If I clip my own wings, I won’t be able to play the way I want,” he said. “But as long as I can be myself without being a distraction or cause harm to the clubhouse or the team, I think I’ll be in good shape.”