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."