Cubs’ Clint Frazier: Hard to understand ‘where it went wrong’ with Yankees

Frazier said joining the Cubs and getting a fresh start has been good for him.

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The Cubs signed Clint Frazier in December, soon after the Yankees released him.

The Cubs signed Clint Frazier in December, soon after the Yankees released him.

Chase Agnello-Dean/Getty Images

BALTIMORE — Returning to New York brings mixed emotions for Cubs outfielder Clint Frazier.

On one hand, he’s heading back to the place where his major-league career began. He and his fiancée plan on shopping for wedding bands while in town because it’s also where he proposed.

On the other, when the Cubs kick off a three-game series Friday at Yankee Stadium, Frazier is set to face the team that released him less than seven months ago. His relationship with the Yankees was marked by mistrust by the end of his tenure.

‘‘It’ll be good to see some of my former teammates,’’ Frazier said in a conversation with the Sun-Times. ‘‘They’re doing great over there, so I’m excited to see them and catch up with them.’’

He later added: ‘‘A lot of it is hard to really look at and understand where it went wrong at times.’’

The Cubs signed Frazier on the eve of the lockout in December.

‘‘I think it’s always nice to have a fresh start, fresh face,’’ Cubs manager David Ross said in the spring. ‘‘Seems like he’s in a great place. He’s in a great mood, working on a lot of things.’’

Frazier agreed with the value of a change of scenery, but his time with the Cubs so far hasn’t gone quite as planned. After carrying a hot bat through much of spring training, Frazier had a slow start to the regular season. Then an appendectomy landed him on the injured list for more than a month.

‘‘I think everyone’s excited to see what he can do,’’ president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said when the Cubs activated Frazier a couple of weeks ago.

Frazier, who has been getting inconsistent playing time as the right-handed hitter in a right-field platoon since returning, found his rhythm in a homestand against the division rival Brewers and Cardinals, going 5-for-15 with five walks.

‘‘I’ve been feeling really good at the plate,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m really hoping I can get some more at-bats here soon because I want to play.’’

The Cubs’ outfield picture, however, might get more crowded in the coming days, with right fielder Seiya Suzuki (sprained ring finger) possibly returning against the Yankees.

But if there’s one thing Frazier carried with him from his time with the Yankees to now, he said, it’s patience.

‘‘I didn’t play super-consistently a lot in New York,’’ he said. ‘‘And it’s kind of trending that way here, where I’m having to be ready in the high-leverage situations in the eighth inning, pinch-hitting off guys who are throwing 1,000 miles per hour.’’

Frazier never played in 70 games in a season with the Yankees. And though he debuted in July 2017, he’s still eligible for arbitration for the next two years.

In Frazier’s last season in New York, the Yankees put him on the IL in July with what they initially called vertigo. It was a diagnosis Frazier disputes and one the team later described as a possible vision issue.

Frazier now says he thinks he was battling another concussion — he missed most of the 2018 season with lingering concussion symptoms — that he tried to play through, deciding not to disclose his suspicion to the Yankees for fear it wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Frazier, who batted .186 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 66 games last season, finished 2021 on the 60-day IL. The Yankees released him in November.

‘‘I like it here,’’ he said of the Cubs organization. ‘‘Certainly don’t miss some of the things over there. And I’m really enjoying the way that this clubhouse has maneuvered. It seems like there’s a lot of guys in here that are just accepting of everyone. And it’s been really good for me.’’

Frazier compared the experience of playing for the Yankees to playing for the White House.

‘‘And you had to be a cookie-cutter version to be on that team,’’ he said. ‘‘If not, then you were, like, a really bad distraction, it seemed like. So I don’t miss being told how I had to look for the last five years.’’

No longer playing under the Yankees’ infamous facial-hair policy, Frazier has grown a short-cropped beard and wears a nose ring.

It’s his own version of a fresh face.

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