SEATTLE — Jacoby Ellsbury has the experience, the long-term commitment and the big money.
Clint Frazier, for now, has the playing time.
Joe Girardi said before Saturday night’s game that Frazier, a 22-year-old rookie who has shined since being called up July 1, has earned everyday status.
And with Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner secure in their outfield spots, it will be at the expense of Ellsbury, who has 3 1⁄2 years left on his seven-year, $153-million deal.
“I’m going with the hot hand,” Girardi said. “Clint’s playing well and I’m going to keep using him.”
Frazier came into Saturday night hitting .294 with an impressive .929 OPS in 14 games since making his big-league debut July 1 in Houston. He was 8-for-27 with three doubles and three runs in seven games on this trip.
“It’s tough to address a player that has had a really good career and tell him that you’re going to go with someone younger and the hot hand,” Girardi said of his conversation with the 33-year-old Ellsbury. “That’s never an easy conversation. But it is part of the game that you have to deal with and the big thing is, we’re not saying that it’s permanent and when he [Ellsbury] gets his chances, it’s important that he plays well.”
Ellsbury brought a .249/.324/.360 slash line into Saturday with four homers and 17 RBIs in 56 games. He said Saturday more than anything the concussion he suffered May 24, which kept him out for more than a month, cost him more than anything. The outfielder had good numbers when he went to the DL — .281/.349/.422 — but has slashed .177/.271/.226 since returning.
“The first two months of the year, I played very well, then had the concussion,” Ellsbury said. “The last three weeks, my production hasn’t been the same since I ran into the wall. But it’s only three weeks. So the first two months, I played very well. I’m looking forward to getting back to what I was the first two months.”
General manager Brian Cashman recently said Frazier will be the odd man out when Aaron Hicks returns from the disabled list. Hicks has been out since June 26 with a right oblique strain and he’s still a ways from returning, likely a minimum of two to three weeks.
Frazier said he was aware of Cashman’s comments and that though they initially “weighed” on him, it wasn’t for long.
“It’s hard when you hear that you could be going down and you’re playing well,” Frazier said. “But like I said, I’m just here to try and produce the next three weeks and make it a harder decision than it might be to send me back.”
At no point has Frazier seemed overwhelmed in the big leagues, starting with that first game in Houston when he doubled and homered. But Frazier said things didn’t really start to click for him until seven days later when he went 3-for-4 against the Brewers, with a walk-off three-run homer in a 5-3 victory.
That comfort came as a result of work with hitting coach Alan Cockrell and assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames.
“Since they pointed out the mechanical flaw, I’ve had more professional at-bats,” Frazier said.
He said the problem essentially was not staying back and keeping his head still, making him more susceptible to sinkers and cutters.
“AC just told me to try and sit on your back side and what I’ve been trying to do is point the left pocket of my pants at the pitcher,” Frazier said. “I was searching for a key word or phrase to remember and AC came up with ‘point your pocket at the pitcher,’ and it’s worked since then.”