Versatile Frazier on a mission to impress

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Todd Frazier is taking two of life’s big steps this year — he became engaged and he purchased a lot to build a house in Toms River, N.J.

As one of his teammates said when they heard about his engagement: “Down goes Frazier.”

Now he would like to take the next big step in his baseball life, a full season in a Cincinnati Reds baseball uniform.

The 26-year-old infielder/outfielder/whatever it takes, a No. 1 sandwich pick in 2007, stuck his toes in major league water for the first time last season, playing 41 games after a 4-1/2-year apprenticeship in the minors.

Frazier was a pitcher/shortstop when he signed. Those are about the only positions he doesn’t play these days.

Frazier can play all the infield positions and left field and is happy to do so, saying, “I just want manager Dusty Baker to point me into the direction of any position, and I’ll be happy to run out there.”

His versatility is what makes Frazier a usable commodity, but he knows he has a battle on his hands this spring after the Reds acquired infielder Wilson Valdez in the offseason and brought in infielder Willie Harris on a minor-league contract.

Versatility?

Frazier appeared in 41 games last season and played one game at first base, two games at second base, 27 games at third base two games at shortstop and four games in left field.

His locker contains more gloves than the women’s accessories department at Macy’s — a different glove for every position.

Frazier is known as the star player of the 1998 Toms River team that won the Little League World Series. But he also likes to tell people about the time he snagged 27 rebounds in a high school basketball game.

As for his immediate baseball future, Frazier said: “It is a different spring, just because I was up in the majors last year. I expect bigger things from me this year. I want to fill that role that Dusty wants me to fill, wherever he wants me to play.

“Now, I know I’ve been there before, been everywhere around the field before, and I know I can do it,” said the 6-foot-3, 217-pounder, who is a Frank Sinatra fan.

And it isn’t just because Sinatra is a Jersey boy, like Frazier.

“I love Sinatra,” he said. “My high school coach used to play Sinatra songs in our locker room before and after games.”

When Frazier comes to bat in Great American Ball Park, Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” booms over the public-address system. Frazier isn’t shooting for the moon in his second year in the majors; he just wants to make that next big step.

“I know I can be a player the Reds can use any more, do any role he (Baker) wants me to fill,” he said. “Last year gave me that kind of confidence.”

Frazier embarrassed neither himself nor the team at any time as he played musical positions.

“A guy like Todd is very valuable to a team,” Baker said. “He serves the purpose of several utility players because he can play so many positions. Guys who only play first base or only play shortstop are not as valuable off your bench. You want that flexibility, and Frazier gives that to you.”

Said Frazier, knowing what it is going to take for him to impress: “I need to start off with a hot spring and just take off.”

Other than learning which glove to take to which position, Frazier said he learned pitch selection during his time with the Reds last year.

“I used to swing at pitches outside my zone, but I needed to find a certain hitting area where I’m best at,” he said. “I think I found that. And now I have to stick with it and not let my mind drift away from that.

“You need to have a good mind-set going into each at-bat, knowing what you want to hit,” he added. “You can’t just free swing up here. These pitchers are a lot better, and they understand your weaknesses and they try to exploit that. You have to stay away from that stuff and wait until you get your pitch.”

To prepare himself for the upcoming season, other than buying an engagement ring and scouting empty lots over the winter, Frazier worked hard on strengthening his body.

“I went hard, very hard,” he said. “First I worked out at the All-Star Academy in Toms River with a guy named Phil Houston. He got me going, not just to get more powerful but different stuff to get me more agile and flexible.

“And then I went to Tampa, Fla., a place called Athletes’ Compound,” he said. “I worked out there for about a month, a power phase, basically. Trying to get bigger and stronger.”

And now he awaits the word. Where and when? Where will he play and when will he play?

“Whenever, whatever and wherever,” he said.