Now playing SS for 1st time since 2014, Roman Quinn

Now playing SS for 1st time since 2014, Roman Quinn

CLEARWATER, Fla. — In December at the winter meetings, Matt Klentak raised the possibility of carrying Roman Quinn as a reserve player on the Phillies' 25-man in 2018.

Once upon a time, the idea would have seemed remote. Quinn, the team's second-round draft pick in 2011, had drawn comparisons to Jimmy Rollins for his speed, athleticism and electricity as a young minor-leaguer. He was being groomed to be a regular player, if not at shortstop, where he played his first two pro seasons (though not with Rollins' defensive excellence), then in center field, where he moved in June 2014 when it became clear that J.P. Crawford was the team's shortstop of the future.

Quinn's history of injuries, a suddenly crowded outfield and a largely new front office led the Phillies to change their view of Quinn. He will turn 25 on May 14. He still has tremendous tools on both sides of the ball. Maybe being a part-time player would allow him the recovery time to keep him healthy while giving the team a weapon off the bench. The thing is, though: The Phillies are likely to go with an eight-man bullpen, which means just a four-man bench. Versatility is being prioritized. And so Quinn is now taking ground balls at shortstop again.

In fact, he did more than that in a game against the Yankees on Thursday. He replaced Crawford at shortstop in the sixth inning.

Quinn still wants to be a regular in the majors, and he still has the tools to be one. But if moving around the diamond and being able to make a play in the infield, possibly only as an emergency fill-in, gets him to the majors at the end of this month, he's all for it.

"I'll do anything to help the team and be here," he said.

Quinn was a September call-up from Double A in September 2016. (Remember his 96-mph throw to the plate from center field?) He would have been back last season if it wasn't for the third significant injury of his career, a torn elbow ligament suffered diving into third base on May 28 while playing for Lehigh Valley. The injury ended his season. Three weeks later, the Phillies released outfielder Michael Saunders and brought up Cameron Perkins. Had he been healthy, Quinn likely would have gotten the promotion. He could have had more than a half-season in the majors last season. Instead — more injury rehab time.

"Frustrating," Quinn said.

He is healthy and upbeat now. In his first game action at shortstop since June 12, 2014, he played four innings at the position in Thursday's 6-4 loss to the Yankees. He did not make a play until the ninth inning. He short-hopped the throw but first baseman Nick Rickles made the scoop.

"I was thinking I might go all day without getting a ball," Quinn said. "I'm glad I got one. It was fun."

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS

AP Images

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS


FORT MYERS, Fla. — However the Phillies’ bench shapes up — whether it features four or five men during the first week of the regular season — one thing is a must:

“We need somebody who can play shortstop, absolutely,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

“We need someone who can play multiple positions in the infield on our bench and someone who can play multiple positions in our outfield on the bench. That’s a necessity.”

Kapler has taken a long look at Roman Quinn at shortstop the last two days. Quinn played four innings there Sunday against the Twins. He was there for the entire game Monday against the Red Sox.

Quinn grew up playing shortstop and outfield. He broke into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to center field during the 2014 season, when it became clear that J.P. Crawford was the shortstop of the future. Now, Quinn is relearning the shortstop position so he can potentially serve as a utility man on the Phillies’ bench. He’d be an intriguing talent to have on the bench because he’s a switch-hitter with electrifying speed.

As a shortstop, the Phillies won’t be looking for Quinn to be a Gold Glover. They need someone to make the play on an emergency or fill-in basis. Quinn made three plays in Monday’s game. He short-hopped one throw and Carlos Santana made the pick. He knocked down one ball, recovered and made a strong throw for an out. He made a nice play on a groundball while shifted behind second. It wasn't the prettiest exhibition, but it got the job done.

“The more I play there, the more comfortable I’m getting,” Quinn said. “I’m enjoying it. I’d like to think I can play any position. It’s fun coming in from center field and playing shortstop. I love it.”

Quinn turns 25 in May. Some schools of thought might come down against carrying a player of his potential as a reserve. Certainly, more time in Triple A would not hurt him, especially after missing more than three months with an elbow injury last year. But the Phillies are open to the possibility of carrying Quinn. His shortstop audition the last two days has made that clear.

“Everyday reps at the minor-league level are incredibly valuable,” Kapler said. “However, because a guy is on the bench at the major-league level doesn’t mean his development is stunted. He’s getting a different kind of experience and a really valuable experience.”

Tom Eshelman was charged with four runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Phils squandered a three-run lead and lost, 6-5, to Boston.

Aaron Altherr drove in four runs. He belted a three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston ace Chris Sale. Cesar Hernandez grinded out a long at-bat before striking out and Santana and Rhys Hoskins both walked before the home run.

“When you have a guy like Sale, making him work is critical,” Kapler said. “Cesar’s punchout was an incredible at-bat. Santana and Hoskins made him work. [Sale] gets a little fatigued and Altherr gets a pitch to whack. So Altherr hitting a home run doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens as a result of team baseball.”

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

Jake Arrieta is ready for game action; Mark Leiter Jr. is hurting

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Good news, bad news on the Phillies’ pitching front.

The good: Jake Arrieta will make his first Grapefruit League appearance of the spring when he gets the start Thursday against the Detroit Tigers in Clearwater.

Arrieta signed with the Phillies a week ago and threw a simulated game Saturday (see story). He will throw a side bullpen session Tuesday then be ready for Thursday’s start. It's still not clear when he will make his regular-season debut. Arrieta believes he will be ready to pitch during the first week of the season. Phillies management is taking a long-range view and will exercise caution in turning him loose. Either way, Arrieta projects to make 30 or more starts once he’s ready.

Now, the bad news:

Pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. headed to Philadelphia for tests on his right forearm. Leiter has been experiencing some tightness and soreness in the forearm, according to manager Gabe Kapler.

This is tough news for Leiter, who early in camp had impressed management with his performance and ability to pitch in a starting or relief role. Ten days before opening day, it’s likely that Leiter will have to open the season on the disabled list.

Starter Jerad Eickhoff will open the season on the DL with a right lat strain. It is not considered serious, but he is projected to be out into May.