Unlike his last visit to Yankee Stadium, Todd Frazier figures to be the hitter in the spotlight due to the depleted nature of the Cincinnati Reds lineup.
His trip to the Bronx 16 years ago remains a lasting memory.
Frazier was on a team that won the Little League World Series back in 1998 when he first encountered New York Yankees star Derek Jeter, and they’ll meet for the final time this weekend beginning with Friday night’s opener of a three-game set.
Cincinnati (51-44) is without injured sluggers Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. Frazier leads the club with 19 homers and 53 RBIs in his second trip to the Bronx as a player after the New Jersey native went 2 for 12 when the Reds took two of three two seasons ago.
The third baseman was 12 years old when he was part of a Little League team that was honored at the old Yankee Stadium in 1998. He stood next to Jeter for the national anthem.
"I got to go on the field with him when I was 12 when we won the Little League World Series," Frazier said. "Like I said, when I first met him, a great guy, talked baseball with him a little bit. I worked out with him a couple of years ago, I said ‘You remember me from ’98?’"
The retiring Jeter said that he actually did.
"It’s great to see guys that you run into when they’re young," Jeter told MLB’s official website. "There’s been plenty of players I’ve played against that have said I had an opportunity to meet them earlier in my career. I enjoy those stories."
The Reds, who are 1 1/2 games back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee, are unsure exactly how they will employ the designated hitter this weekend, although All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco figures to get a rest from behind the plate at some point.
"We’ll have some decisions on the roster and what it looks like going into New York, the designated hitter and things of that nature," manager Bryan Price said. "But our bullpen should be rested for sure, the starters will be in a lot better place."
Cincinnati went into the break after an 8-3 homestand in which Frazier had two homers and five RBIs in the final two games.
New York (47-47) begins a 10-game homestand after losing four of six. Although the Yankees have four injured starting pitchers and are unsure of the status of veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran (concussion), they feel they can still contend since they trail first-place Baltimore by five games in the AL East.
”With everything that we had go wrong, we’re still in it,” manager Joe Girardi said. ”That’s the big thing. We’ve got to take advantage of that when we get back to work on Friday.”
Both teams will start right-handers Friday.
The Yankees’ David Phelps (3-4, 3.94 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA in his last six outings, yielding two runs over six-plus innings July 10 in a 9-3 defeat Cleveland in his last one. Phelps has never started against the Reds.
Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (7-7, 3.54) is 2-0 with a 1.10 ERA in six career interleague road starts. He gave up four runs in six innings in a 4-2 loss in his lone career outing against the Yankees on June 22, 2011.