As Pirates’ oldest player, Todd Frazier embraces chance to serve as a sounding board

One of the newest Pittsburgh Pirates never imagined being the oldest guy in spring training. That didn’t stop Todd Frazier from dropping an indicator of his age while reminsicing about his rookie year.

When talking about accepting a role as a corner infielder who can back up both first and third base, Frazier mentioned how he started his major league career as a utility infielder who filled in for All-Stars Scott Rolen and Joey Votto with the Cincinnati Reds in 2011.

“It’s about getting opportunities,” said Frazier, 35, a two-time All-Star in 10 MLB seasons. “These young guys need to understand when they do get opportunities, show up, take the bull by the horns and go after it. I want to preach to these young guys, ‘You’re here for a reason. There’s gonna be a lot opportunity for you. Show them why you’re here.’”

Frazier knows why he’s with the Pirates, thanks to a candid conversation with manager Derek Shelton before signing a minor-league contract that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the 26-man roster. Shelton ,who said Frazier was on a snow plow in New Jersey when he called, said the Pirates were “very honest with him about our expectations.”

Frazier accepted, knowing that it would be as a potential right-handed bat to platoon with Colin Moran and occasionally spell Ke’Bryan Hayes – even though Frazier has played far more games at third (1,066) than he has at third (113).

“It’s something I take with open arms,” Frazier said of playing first base. “I’ve still got a lot of learning to do even though I’ve been playing for a long time. It’s something that I enjoy doing.”

Frazier also enjoys hitting home runs – he has 218, including a career-best 40 in 2016 – and is embracing the chance to be a positive impact on a young team looking for veteran leadership. He spent his first practices with the Pirates chatting up his young teammates.

“I think it speaks to the kind of person that he is, what he views his role as on this club,” Shelton said. “That’s one of the reasons that we talked to him and signed him because we knew he would provide those kinds of conversations. …

“For us, we identified a right-handed bat who could play both corners was important to us. That was something that kinda stood out, and we were happy he was still available. I think just blending in with what our culture is and why it is that way. He understands that we have a foundation. One thing that we talked about while he was on the snow plow was, I was just very honest with him about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. It sounds like from what he said to you guys evidently and what he said to me and his teammates, it’s something he wants to be part of.”

Frazier has found frustration with free agency, playing for four teams since 2016, so the hardest part is learning names. He knows all about Hayes, however, as they are locker mates at Pirate City. Where Hayes teased Frazier that he watched him play as a kid, Frazier already told the rookie third baseman that he wants to serve as a sounding board.

“He’s a stud,” Frazier said of Hayes. “He goes about his business the right way so far. He’s got a swagger to him that’s really not cocky about it. It’s something that guys can build off and learn from. I’ll just watch him take ground balls. He’s very smooth, and I’ve been picking his brain a little bit as we go, just talking baseball and shop and all that stuff. And I just can’t wait to see how he transpires during the year.”

Frazier also can’t wait to play at PNC Park, where he has a career slash line of .307/.379/.553 with nine doubles, two triples, eight homers and 23 RBIs in 39 games. He recalled the “electric” atmosphere of the blackout for the 2013 wild card game against the Reds, and his diving catch over the railing on the third base line in the second inning.

“I love it. I loved every second about it,” Frazier said. “I knew I was a good hitter there. I remember my hitting coach at home telling me, ‘You’re going back to Pittsburgh. This is where you rake.’

“It’s exciting. I’m very comfortable there. I like the dirt there. I like way my feet are positioned in the box. It’s all about comfort, in baseball and life in general. For me, when I step into the box and get to the plate there, I just feel really good.”

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Pirates/MLB | Sports

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