spring training

Phillies take long look at Roman Quinn as potential backup SS

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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.

Jake Arrieta takes the mound as Ben Lively's ship comes in

Jake Arrieta takes the mound as Ben Lively's ship comes in

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Times have changed in baseball. When Mitch Williams joined the Phillies in 1991, he wanted John Kruk’s uniform No. 28. No problem. Kruk agreed to give up the number for two cases of beer.

To get No. 49 off of Ben Lively’s back, Jake Arrieta knew he had to come up with something nice.

“Typically you get a guy a watch or something like that,” Arrieta said.

So Arrieta approached Lively in the clubhouse.

“What kind of watch do you want?” he asked his new teammate.

“No,” Lively responded. “I need a boat.”

Arrieta, who signed a three-year, $75 million deal Monday, laughed in telling the story after throwing his first bullpen session with the Phillies on Wednesday morning.

“I thought that was pretty funny,” he said. “We’ll come up with something. Maybe a little Jon boat, something small, a little two-seater. I don’t know.”

Lively, who switched to No. 54, is a fishing enthusiast. In fact, his dad owns a charter fishing boat company in Pensacola, Florida.

Arrieta was pleased with his first bullpen session and so was pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

“He looks great to me,” said Kranitz, who was the pitching coach in Baltimore when Arrieta debuted with the Orioles in 2010. “He always stays in shape. What I was looking for today was how the ball was coming out of his hand and it was coming out great. I didn’t expect anything different.”

Arrieta threw about 50 pitches. He hopes to pitch in a minor-league game Saturday. Kranitz mentioned that the right-hander might first throw live batting practice. Either way, Arrieta believes he will be ready for the first week of the regular season, though nothing official has been mapped out. He had been throwing regularly near his home in Austin, Texas, before signing with the Phillies.

“My arm feels great, my body is healthy,” Arrieta said after throwing to Andrew Knapp in the bullpen. “It feels good to be back in baseball pants. It’s the start to the next chapter of my life and my career and I’m excited about it.”

Arrieta threw his bullpen session at the minor-league complex with a couple of dozen minor-league pitchers looking on. Arrieta remembered doing the same thing when he was a young minor-leaguer with the Orioles.

“Experiences like that bring you back,” he said.

Arrieta is eager to pitch in Citizens Bank Park — for the home team.

“It’s a great ballpark,” he said. “I’ve been heckled quite a bit from the Phillies fans but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was always good banter. Sometimes I would turn around and laugh. I always appreciated their intense nature.

“When you’re in an atmosphere like this in professional sports, you expect your home fans to do their part in talking some trash to the opposition. The energy level is always high in that place. I look forward to finishing spring strong and getting up there. I feel like I’ll be welcomed with open arms.”

Lively pitched five innings and gave up three runs in a 5-3 loss to Atlanta at Disney on Wednesday. Preston Tucker had an RBI double and a two-run homer against Lively. The Phillies are off Thursday.