GLENDALE, Ariz. – By all rights, a player with a new team, new teammates, a new spring-training home and a new league should be completely out of his comfort zone.
But seeing as how the world is Todd Frazier’s comfort zone, never mind.
“From growing up with my parents and understanding life a little bit, man, you’ve got to go in there like you’ve been there before,’’ the White Sox’ new third baseman said Sunday. “That’s a big thing. Act like you’ve been there before.’’
And seeing as how Frazier is as chatty as a talk show host and speaks with a Joisy accent, yo, it’s no problem.
“The more I talk, the better off I feel,’’ he said.
When Frazier, a former Red, arrived at the Sox’ spring-training facility for the first time last week, he made it his mission to seek out as many people as he could.
“I always find a way to get comfortable, whether it’s talking with guys or figuring out your surroundings,’’ he said. “When I walked in here, I just felt it from talking to the first guy I met or to the 40th guy on the 40-man roster.’’
The Sox got Frazier in a three-team trade on Dec. 16. After finally absorbing that he was no longer with the organization that had drafted him in 2007, he did what everyone else in search of information does these days. He started Googling names. He already knew that the top of the pitching rotation, with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon, was excellent. He knew about Jose Abreu. He probably noticed that a few players had experienced off years and that some, like designated hitter Adam LaRoche, had gone through mushroom-cloud off years.
Frazier said he came away hopeful, even though the Sox underachieved at 76-86. Or maybe he came away hopeful because they underachieved.
“This is a team that is striving to be winners to make the playoffs,’’ he said. “That’s basically the first goal. You’ve got to get to the playoffs. … Once we get to the playoffs, then we can do some damage. So let’s start with the division and work our way from there. We’ve got the key cogs that can do that.’’
Last season was wonderful for Frazier — and then it wasn’t. In the first half, he hit .284, homered 25 times, knocked in 57 runs and won the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities. After that, he hit .220 with 10 homers and 32 runs batted in. The culprit, he said Sunday, was the soul-sapping drain of losing. The Reds went 64-98 and finished 36 games out of first place in the National League Central.
“I was tired,’’ he said. “Everybody said, ‘Oh, your swing was different.’ It wasn’t different at all. The Home Run Derby had nothing to do with that. I was just tired. You look at what we had going on. We weren’t winning. Nobody wants to play on a losing team. Nothing against the Reds. It’s not fun, and when the job’s not fun sometimes, it’s tough to get going.’’
Frazier said he’ll have to study video to get to know American League pitchers better, but you will not find him with dark circles under his eyes from binge watching.
“You put too much in your brain, you start thinking up there instead of just going up there and hitting and remembering that this is what I do,’’ he said.
Frazier has all these new things to confront, but at least one thing has stayed the same: The reaction of his mom, Joan, when he left for camp.
“I’m the youngest of three,’’ he said. “She wants her baby to be happy. She cried when I left to go to spring training this year. I go, ‘Ma, this is the 10th year I’m going to spring training. How about putting a smile on your face?’ She said (crying), ‘OK.’ It was great. You love your mom to death.’’
The Sox need some flavor. He has arrived. His Twitter account is @FlavaFraz21.
“He brings a personality, definitely, a dynamic that’s different than what we’ve had,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s a nice addition just player-wise and personality-wise.’’
Frazier said he is vaguely aware of the baseball pecking order in Chicago, with the Cubs first in popularity and the Sox not.
“I know the Cubs haven’t been doing well and finally got to the playoffs again,’’ he said. “I know they haven’t won a World Series in a heck of a lot of years, but that’s basically all I know.’’
That’s enough for Sox fans. He’ll fit right in.