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Aaron Boone sees Clint Frazier as Yankees' everyday leftfielder

Clint Frazier of the Yankees makes a diving

Clint Frazier of the Yankees makes a diving catch for an out during the sixth inning against the Rays at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 1, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. — Clint Frazier is finally getting his wish of being an everyday player in the big leagues.

At least to start the season.

"I do," Aaron Boone said Wednesday during his spring training kickoff news conference, asked if he sees Frazier as the starting leftfielder. "Clint has obviously come a long way in every aspect of his game; certainly earned his place last year when, obviously, nothing was given to him."

The Yankees were impressed overall with how Frazier handled 2020, the reason the job in left will still be his to lose even if veteran Brett Gardner, a free agent whom the club is still talking to, returns (though that’s more of a long shot after the signing of Jay Bruce to a minor-league deal last week).

Frazier made the club out of Spring Training II but was demoted to the alternative site in Moosic, Pennsylvania, just two games into the regular season. Frazier, however, handled the demotion far more maturely than he did upon being demoted in 2019, which caused some consternation inside the organization.

And when given a chance, Frazier, now 26, stepped in and produced. He did so offensively — not a surprise as Frazier’s bat has always been his calling card— but also defensively. That was a bit more surprising given his issues in the field in 2019, but Frazier seemed to have fixed those in 2020, even being named a finalist for the Gold Glove in rightfield.

At the plate, Frazier hit .303 with eight homers, six doubles, a triple and a 1.097 OPS in his first 33 games after an Aug. 12 call-up, a bad slump to end the season dragging those numbers down a bit.

"Last year, I think, really proved that he was ready to grab an everyday role on this team," Boone said. "The improvements he's made in every aspect of his game. I feel like at his age, with his experience now and the success and the confidence that he's continued to build has put him in position to go into this camp as an everyday player, and he's certainly earned that."

Higgy and Cole again?

Boone gave a quick "no" to the question of whether he would pair ace Gerrit Cole with backup catcher Kyle Higashioka as he did toward the end of last season. Higashioka caught Cole’s last four regular-season starts — the righty went 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA — and all three of the ace’s postseason outings — he went 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA.

"We'll come in with the idea that, whether it's Gary [Sanchez] or Kyle, they'll both work with really all of our pitchers," Boone said.

He did add: "I’m always willing to do whatever I feel like is necessary moving forward," which was the case last season — and the safe bet is it will be again in 2021 — in putting Cole and Higashioka together. The Yankees also just brought to camp on a minor-league deal veteran Robinson Chirinos, with whom Cole posted a 2.46 ERA over 16 starts when the two were teammates on the 2019 Astros.

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