CHICAGO — Clint Frazier was the only one who didn’t see it coming.
With the Yankees’ acquisition of slugger Edwin Encarnacion on Saturday night, the one-dimensional Frazier — who has shown a quality big-league bat but a glove that has made the club reticent to play him consistently in the outfield — was caught in a numbers game.
Encarnacion is slated to join the Yankees on Monday. To make room for him, Frazier — a potential trade chip when the Yankees attempt to upgrade their rotation before the July 31 deadline — was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“Pretty surprised,” said Frazier, 24, who has hit .283 with an .843 OPS in 53 games this season and has been swinging an especially hot bat of late.
Aaron Boone’s message when he told him of the demotion after Sunday’s 10-3 victory over the White Sox?
“This is the reality of things,” a somber Frazier said. “Guess I’m facing reality right now. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s never fun, especially with how much I’ve felt like I’ve contributed to this team.”
Frazier said he figured that when Giancarlo Stanton returns Tuesday and Aaron Judge joins the team at some point after that, he was going to be sent down. He just didn’t expect it now.
“No, not because of Encarnacion. Maybe because of Judge or Stanton,” said Frazier, whose refusal to talk to the media after butchering several balls in rightfield against the Red Sox a couple of weeks ago on national TV and subsequent news conference in Toronto did not go over well inside the organization, including some corners of the clubhouse.
Meanwhile, Encarnacion, 36, who has produced 401 career homers, including an American League-leading 21 this year, will be welcomed as the primary DH.
“I’m glad he didn’t go anywhere else,” said Zack Britton, who has seen Encarnacion go 4-for-15 with a double against him in his career. “He could have been a great addition for Tampa, Boston . . . so I think keeping him away from those guys was a big plus.”
The Rays, with whom the Yankees are in a neck-and-neck battle for the AL East lead, were interested in Encarnacion, according to several reports.
Stanton went 0-for-4 and Judge had an RBI single in four at-bats for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. When Stanton comes back, he is likely to get most of the playing time in leftfield, meaning a bench role for Brett Gardner, 35, the longest-tenured Yankee.
“I still expect Gardy to play a lot,” Boone said. “He’s obviously very important to this team in so many ways and will continue to be that and continue to play a big role for us.”
Said Gardner: “Any time you can add somebody as good as Edwin, he’s a guy who’s going to make us better, so we look forward to getting him on board. How that affects me, that’s not something I’m worried about right now.”