CINCINNATI — Gabe Kapler is pumped about having Roman Quinn on his roster.
“I think it’s fair to say that nobody has a weapon like this off the bench,” Kapler said Friday afternoon.
Quinn, a 25-year-old switch-hitter, was called up from Lehigh Valley and in uniform for Friday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. He has top-of-the-scale speed that rivals Billy Hamilton, the Reds’ starting centerfielder.
“I think Roman is a fairly unique commodity in baseball,” Kapler said. “Their guy, as far as I know, plays just about every day. I’m not sure there is a bench option like Roman Quinn. He’s an 80 (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) runner, so there’s really no one who’s a whole lot faster if there are those who are faster. He switch hits, he plays the infield, he plays the outfield. He’s a pretty unique weapon.”
Kapler said he would use Quinn in a variety of spots when the game is on the line.
“It’s not dissimilar to the way we think about our best relievers,” Kapler said. “If we identify a really good opportunity to use Roman, we’ll use him.
“He’s going to get some starts. We’re going to mix him in to give other outfielders a blow from time to time. We’ll identify good matchups for him and we’ll stick him in the lineup when we feel like it's the right time. He’ll run. He’ll play defense. He’ll hit. We won’t save him as a bullet. It’s not like, ‘Let’s wait for the perfect time to deploy him as a pinch-runner. Let’s wait for the eighth or ninth inning.’ No. If he’s the right guy in the sixth inning, we’ll use him in the sixth inning. We’ll use him as a double-switch option. We’ll try to get him a start as soon as possible to make sure he’s comfortable.”
Quinn could get a start in Fenway Park’s spacious right field on Monday or Tuesday, especially with the Phils lining up to face lefty David Price in that two-game series. Kapler could look to keep lefty-hitting Nick Williams away from Price.
Quinn has shown his tools on both sides of the ball the last two years in spring training. He was arguably the most exciting player in camp in 2017. The previous September, he played in the majors and showed off his arm with a 96-mph strike from center field to home plate to throw out a runner.
But there’s always been a major blemish on Quinn’s résumé, not that it’s his fault. He has been plagued by injury for most if his professional career. He has missed time over the years with a torn Achilles tendon, a torn left quadriceps, a concussion, a strained elbow ligament and, most recently, with a torn ligament in his right middle finger, which required surgery in May and more time with the Phillies’ injury-rehab specialists in Clearwater.
“It just drives me nuts to be in Clearwater, to be honest with you,” Quinn said. “Any time I have to see those guys again, they’re like, ‘Man, what are you doing here?’ It’s always something. It’s always around the same time of the year. What mostly bothered me was just missing at-bats again. You’re getting into a rhythm and a groove during the season and it’s something you want to maintain, then it’s like starting all over again. It sucks.”
Quinn played five games in the minors over the last week, was 6 or 16 with a double, three walks and two stolen bases. That and his return to health was enough for Phillies officials to add him to a bench that needs upgrading.
Quinn is predominantly an outfielder, but he played shortstop in the low minors, worked at the position in spring training and still carries an infielder's glove. Kapler would not hesitate to use him there in a pinch.
“Whatever role I need to play to help the team win, I will do to the best of my ability,” Quinn said. “If that’s coming off the bench, if it’s starting every day — whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to do.”