Frazier 'surprised' to be sent down by Yankees

CHICAGO -- Minutes after he was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday afternoon, New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier admitted he was "pretty surprised" to find out he was being sent down.

"It's a tough pill to swallow, yeah," he said. "It's never fun, especially with how much I felt like I've contributed to this team this year."

Frazier, 24, heads back to the minor leagues as Edwin Encarnacion, one of the majors' more prolific active home run hitters, gets added to the Yankees' 25-man roster following the Saturday trade that brought him to the Bronx Bombers from Seattle.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday's demotion was the product of needing to open a roster spot for Encarnacion, the American League home run leader with 21.

The timing of the move was particularly surprising to Frazier because of the remaining subtractions that will happen in the coming days with outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge wrapping up minor league rehab assignments. Frazier intimated that he figured he'd be sent down once that happened in the coming days, but not quite now.

"Not because of Encarnacion," Frazier said, "but maybe because of Judge or Stanton."

Stanton is expected to be activated Tuesday when the Yankees host division foe Tampa Bay in the second game of an important three-game series. Judge likely will play a few more games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he becomes an option. Frazier, who was originally called up April 1 in the wake of Stanton's first injury, has had a big impact on the Yankees' offense.

Through 53 games, Frazier hit .283 with 22 extra-base hits. His 11 home runs are tied for fourth on the big league roster. He also has been one of the league's best hitters with runners in scoring position, carrying a .375 batting average into such scenarios entering Sunday's series finale at the Chicago White Sox.

"He's played a big role on a winning team, and that doesn't necessarily stop now, but this is where we're at with the roster situation," Boone said. "So obviously tough news to deliver, but hopefully he can make the most of it and continue to get better at his craft and know that he's going to play a role for us again."

"With a guy like Clint we want him playing all the time," Boone added. "He's got a chance to be a great player in this league, and he's already shown that."

Fellow outfielder Brett Gardner, 35, a longtime Yankee who could get caught in the pending roster crunch as Stanton and Judge get healthy, had a message of encouragement for Frazier.

"Sometimes when decisions are made, you don't always agree with them, but you've just got to keep your head down and keep moving forward," Gardner said. "He's a guy that has a ton of talent. He's going to play this game for a long time."

There has been a belief that with so many powerful position players now being added to the Yankees' lineup, perhaps Frazier will become an important piece for New York to dangle in trade talks. He had been assured in past years that despite the previous rampant speculation about his role with the organization, he wasn't on the trading block.

But now, with the Yankees in such desperate need of starting pitching, that might not be the case.

"I've been traded once, so who knows?" Frazier said. "I can't control that, I just try to play as good as I can to put myself in a good position."

As strong as his offense has been, Frazier's defense has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. The attention was at its highest two weeks ago, when he committed three errors during a loss to the Boston Red Sox on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.

Following that poor performance in the field, Frazier declined to speak to reporters in the postgame scrum in the clubhouse. He spoke later that night to ESPN, expressing remorse for the way he played in such an important game.

Frazier's personality also has been on full display this season, as he has spent the past two months capitalizing on his status as a member of the iconic New York franchise. Heightened in large part because of where he was playing and who he was playing for, Frazier's profile rose throughout the spring as he was recognized for the way he took high-end sneakers and added cleats to the bottoms of them. He drawn praise from world-renowned sneaker designers and ire for the way he's gone about playing in the nontraditional cleats.