It was agonizing for Yankees to demote Clint Frazier

WASHINGTON — Aaron Boone had to tell a player he believes can thrive in the big leagues there was no room on the Yankees’ roster late Saturday night.

That’s when outfielder Clint Frazier was sent to the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with reliever Ben Heller to make room for relievers Nick Nelson and Brooks Kriske after Boone used five bullpen arms in a 9-2 loss Saturday night to the Nationals.

“Difficult. Clint is ready to be an impact player in this league, there is no doubt in my mind,’’ Boone said of the right-handed hitting outfielder who didn’t play in the Yankees’ first two games of the season. “Just unfortunately for him he is blocked by a lot of good outfielders. Unfortunately with options and our situation right now Clint was the odd man out, but that doesn’t make it any easier because he has done everything, from a work standpoint, from a focus standpoint. It is hard when you are sending down a big-league player who you know is ready to produce.’’

With left-hander Patrick Corbin starting Sunday for the Nationals, Boone put right-handed hitting Miguel Andujar in left (Frazier’s position) during the 3-2 win. It was Andujar’s first big-league game in the outfield. And had the Yankees wanted to, they could have sent out Andujar who has two options remaining.

Left-handed hitting Mike Tauchman, another outfielder ahead of Frazier on the depth chart, started in center field because Boone didn’t want to overdo it with Aaron Hicks.

“Coming back from the Tommy John, I just want to be smart in how we manage him and just felt like a long day [Saturday], day game after a night game, something he hasn’t done yet and wanted to get Tauchman in there even though it is a lefty,’’ Boone said. “I like his bat quality at the bottom of the order.’’

After taking a knee for the national anthem on Saturday night, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton weren’t on the field Sunday when the song was played before Sunday’s game. No player on the field took a knee.

Across his 13 years in the big leagues, J.A. Happ has pitched with situations outside the lines that he has successfully blocked out while on the mound.

Monday night in Philadelphia, the 37-year-old lefty will try to repeat that process thanks to an unresolved dispute about a $17 million vesting option for next year. In a 162-game season, Happ would have had to make 26 starts or pitch 165 innings. In this 60-game schedule, Happ would have to make 10 starts or throw 61 ¹/₃ innings to trigger the $17 million option.

According to a July 15 report by The Post’s Joel Sherman, the March agreement between the sides committed MLB and the union to negotiate in good faith on special covenants such as vesting options, including covenants based on injured days and for players who were injured as of late March.

Happ was put in a category covered by that injury addendum by MLB/Yankees. Therefore, the league argues he does not fall under the umbrella and that he and the Yankees have to negotiate new thresholds for starts or innings and/or a new 2021 option total — or else the matter is sent to an arbitrator to decide.

Happ has not been on an injured list since signing his two-year, $34 million contract with the Yankees that contains the 2021 vesting option. And Boone said in mid-July that Happ was a healthy player in the first spring training this year in March.

“It has been a process that we are trying to resolve. Unfortunately it is what it is type of deal. I am going to do my best and sort of just pitch,’’ Happ said via Zoom on Sunday. “I have been in situations where there has been other things potentially hanging over your head [and] have been able to handle it, so I plan on focusing at the task at hand. Hopefully we get a resolution to that at some point.’’

Masahiro Tanaka was scheduled to throw a simulated game at the Yankees’ alternate training site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. However, the club didn’t provide an update before leaving for Philadelphia.

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